Sepp Blatter faces calls to resign as Fifa president over handling of bribery scandal

Joao Havelange resigns as honorary president of Fifa after findings of an ethics investigation are published

Fifa president Sepp Blatter faced calls to resign today over the findings of an ethics investigation into a bribery scandal involving leading football officials and collapsed marketing partner ISL.

Blatter's handling of the case was labelled "clumsy" but not misconduct by the investigation - though it questioned whether he knew or should have known about the millions of pounds of bribes paid to his predecessor Joao Havelange and two other South American Fifa members.

Havelange has resigned as Fifa's honorary president in the wake of the findings, it emerged today, and Damian Collins, an MP who sits on the culture, media and sport select committee and who has led a campaign for Fifa reform, insists Blatter should follow suit.

Collins told the Press Association: "Sepp Blatter should himself resign for his failure to expose the wrongdoing sooner, and to take action earlier against those who had done wrong.

"In the light of this report, it is even more incredible that the Fifa executive committee continue to resist calls, from its own advisors, for greater independent scrutiny of its decisions, and the financial interests of its members.

"The impression created by this report is one of an attempted cover-up by Fifa of this massive corruption scandal motivated by the desire to protect some of its leading officials."

The long-awaited reported by Fifa's ethics committee into the ISL scandal named Havelange and two former Fifa members Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz as receiving bribes. All three have since resigned from Fifa.

The report by Fifa Adjudicatory Chamber chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert states: "Mr Havelange has long held solely an honorary position, which does not qualify him as an 'official' under the code of ethics. Further, Mr Havelange resigned his position as honorary president effective 18.04.2013."

Eckert does question Blatter's role in the scandal, however.

He states: "It must be questioned, however, whether President Blatter knew or should have known over the years before the bankruptcy of ISL that ISL had made payments (bribes) to other Fifa officials."

The report states that in 1997, Blatter authorised the transfer of 1.5million Swiss francs (£1million) to Havelange after ISL mistakenly sent it to Fifa. But Blatter, who was then general secretary of the organisation when Havelange was president, told the ethics investigation "at that time he did not suspect the payment was a commission".

"President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules," says the report. "The conduct of President Blatter may have been clumsy because there could be an internal need for clarification, but this does not lead to any criminal or ethical misconduct."

Blatter immediately issued a statement welcoming that he had been cleared of misconduct.

He said: "I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that 'President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules'.

"I have no doubt that Fifa, thanks to the governance reform process that I proposed, now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue - which has caused untold damage to the reputation of our institution - does not happen again."

The ethics report does not state the total sum of bribes paid but says they took place over eight years between 1992 and May 2000.

"From money that passed through the ISMM/ISL Group, it is certain that not inconsiderable amounts were channelled to former Fifa President Havelange and to his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira as well as to Dr Nicolas Leoz, whereby there is no indication that any form of service was given in return by them.

"These payments were apparently made via front companies in order to cover up the true recipient and are to be qualified as 'commissions', known today as 'bribes'."

Court documents state Havelange, now aged 96, received at least £1million and Teixeira at least £8.4million, and in total the pair may have received up to £14.5m. Leoz, from Paraguay and now aged 84, was named in court as having received at least £80,000.

Fifa's ethics committee meanwhile banned Sri Lanka's executive committee member Vernon Manilal Fernando for eight years.

A statement from Fifa did not give details of the reason for the ban other than Fernando was "found guilty of several breaches of the Fifa Code of Ethics".

Fernando, 63, has been a member of the Fifa executive since 2011 is a former close ally of Mohamed Bin Hamman, who was banned for life in December for conflicts on interest while president of the Asian Football Confederation.

Labour's shadow sports minister Clive Efford MP called for a completely independent inquiry into the ISL scandal.

Efford said: "Fifa will always remain under suspicion of corruption at the very top of the organisation unless there is an entirely independent investigation into the payments relating to the ISL contract.

"We can only conclude from the fact that no one in Fifa questioned why a major TV contractor paid £1million to President Havelange that it was commonplace for backhanders to be accepted by high-ranking officials within the organisation.

"The £1million was paid Havelange c/o Fifa. Fifa acted like a clearing bank and simply passed the money on with no questions asked.

"It is extremely disappointing to see these people lining their pockets when volunteers that run grassroots clubs are desperate for funds. The culprits must be identified and hounded out of our game."

PA

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee