Friday, November 15News For London

FBI investigates Blatter’s role in ISL bribes

The FBI is investigating the role of Sepp Blatter in a $100m payment of sports marketing company ISL to FIFA-officials, BBC’s Panorama reports. Blatter denies he was aware of those payments, which were made in the 1990’s.

A BBC investigation, which will broadcast tonight, will focus on the role of Sepp Blater in the ISL scandal, where FIFA-officials were paid to hand ISL lucrative television and marketing contracts. Among those officials were former FIFA-president João Havelange – who lost his honorary president title since – and former Brazilian FA president Ricardo Teixeira.

BBC tells that its Panorama reporter Andrew Jennings has seen a letter, obtained by America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, in where Havelange talks about the payments he received from ISL. In the letter it’s mentioned that Blatter was aware of the payments. Blatter has always denied this.

Sepp_Blatter_&_João_Havelange
Sepp Blatte and João Havelange in 1982 picture: Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo

It comes a few days after it was announced that two more FIFA executive committee members were arrested by Swiss Police, who acted on instructions of the US Department of Justice.

The American department had unsealed an indictment in federal court against a total of 16 new defendants. They were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with plans to accept payment in exchange for media rights and sponsorship deals.

Earlier in May, 14 other officials were already indicted following a major inquiry by the FBI.

The FBI is investigating FIFA for some time now. Initially it was focused on the biding process for the World Cup of 2018 and 2022 but then the investigation went into the last 20 years as well.

The Department of Justice said that corruption in regards to FIFA was planned in the US and that the involvement of US banks to transfer money was an important reason why America started with investigations.

The US indictments so far have focused on corruption in the previous years. But it’s assumed that the FBI and a separate Swiss investigation will look into the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments now, where the bids to host the tournaments were were won by Russia and Qatar respectively. It would need hard evidence to relocate those World Cups, as it would take a huge operation to move those tournaments to other countries, as preparations have been started a long time ago.

But first there will be more attention on the current FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is currently suspended by FIFA’s Ethics Committee.

He is accused of criminal mismanagement or misappropriation over a TV rights deal and because of a “disloyal payment” to European football chief Michel Platini, who is suspended as well. But tonight, the focus will be on Blatter’s role in the payments from ISL to FIFA officials.

BBC 1, Panorama, 20:30