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Two senior FIFA executives got payments of more than 14.2 million Swiss francs ($15.5 million) from the soccer governing body’s now-defunct marketing partner, according to testimony in a report by the Council of Europe.
The officials weren’t named in the report by French national assembly member Francois Rochebloine. Swiss magistrate Thomas Hildbrand gave Rocheblione details of his investigation into the 2001 collapse of ISL, which sold FIFA’s World Cup television rights.
The Council of Europe started looking at the soccer body after the 2010 award of its $5 billion World Cup and last year’s presidential vote that returned Sepp Blatter to a fourth four- year term. His only opponent Mohamed Bin Hammam quit the race a day before being accused of paying $1 million to buy votes from Caribbean officials. The council was founded in 1949 by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and has representatives from 47 countries.
The report questioned what Blatter knew about the payments. The 76-year-old Swiss citizen held the Zurich-based organization’s most senior administrative post for 17 years before assuming the presidency in 1998.
“Since FIFA was aware of significant sums paid to certain of its officials, it is difficult to imagine that Mr. Blatter would not have known about this,” Rochbloine wrote. “That does not mean that he was directly involved.”
“But I believe it is extraordinary that he did nothing to make public all the information which FIFA had or has, and took no steps whether internally or via the courts to enable FIFA to obtain reparation,” he wrote in the report.
FIFA didn’t reply to an e-mail seeking comment. Upon his re-election Blatter described himself as the captain of a ship in troubled waters. “We will put FIFA’s ship back on the right course in clear transparent waters,” he said.
The organization is expected to make changes at its Congress next month, including overhauling its anti-corruption systems.
Hildebrand, who declined interview requests, told the Council of Europe that FIFA was also a victim of graft.
“The money paid under-the-counter to certain unscrupulous officials should have been paid to FIFA,” it quotes him as saying.
Hildbrand said described the exchange of money as “commission payments” to ensure FIFA officials could influence where television contracts were awarded. Blatter last year promised to publish a file detailing who was paid what by ISL. That hasn’t happened because of objections from some of the people named in the case.
Hildbrand said a South American FIFA executive member, known only as person H, received more than 12.5m Swiss francs between 1992 and 1997 and further payments between 1998 and 2000. Another official referred to as E got 1.5 million Swiss francs in March 1997 and possibly further payments until May 2000.
The payments were made to H “so as to ensure that he subsequently influenced the conclusion of sub-licensing contracts, as president of the Football Association of a South American country,” Hildebrand said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
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