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
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

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most