News 7 December 2015

FBI investigating Blatter’s knowledge of ISL ‘commission’

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating Joseph S. Blatter’s knowledge of ‘commission’ paid by International Sport and Leisure (ISL) to FIFA officials in the 1990s in order to secure World Cup TV contracts, reported BBC Panorama this evening. During the programme, investigative reporter Andrew Jennings read from a letter obtained by the FBI and signed by João Havelange, Blatter’s predecessor as FIFA President. “Blatter had full knowledge of his relationship with ISL”, said Jennings, reading from the letter: “I emphasise that Mr. Joseph Blatter had full knowledge of all of the activities described and was always appraised of them”.

In May 2010, a prosecutor’s office in the Swiss Canton of Zug confirmed that FIFA officials had accepted payments from its former marketing partner International Sports Marketing and Management (ISMM)/ISL, however the details were not published until 2012, due to a quirk in Swiss law that allowed a judgment to remain private unless both parties agree to its publication. Former FIFA President Havelange and Executive Committee member Ricardo Texeira were amongst those named as having received ‘commission’, after the Swiss Federal Court ruled that the publication of the Zug prosecutor’s office judgment was in the public interest on 11 July 2012.

FIFA was forced to publish the 42-page document (reproduced below), which calculated the total ‘commission’ paid by ISMM/ISL to FIFA executives in order to secure TV contracts was CHF122.6 million (€113 million using today’s exchange rates). A day later, Blatter defended the ‘commission’ payments in an interview. “Back then, such payments could even be deducted from tax as a business expense”, he told “Today, that would be punishable under law. You can’t judge the past on the basis of today’s standards.”

The Havelange letter is significant because it appears to be a signed affidavit that Blatter knew about the payments from ISL and what they were for – something he has always denied. ‘President Blatter stated during his interview with Mr Garcia that he “couldn’t understand that somebody is sending money to FIFA for another person,” but at that time he did not suspect the payment was a commission’, read the 29 April 2013 statement (reproduced below) of the Chairman of the FIFA Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, on the examination of the ISL case. ‘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 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.’

Even though it occurred some time ago, such evidence could be used to implicate Blatter in the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) investigations, claimed the BBC Panorama programme. “If it’s part of that same course of conduct, then the Governor’s able to charge it and include it in the conspiracy”, said US Attorney Robert Appleton. The programme claimed that the FBI is also investigating a 2005 TV rights contract, reproduced below, in which Blatter agrees to sell the TV rights to the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups to former FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF President, Jack Warner, for $600,000.

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