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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

Press Release

Panorama – FIFA's Dirty Secrets

A BBC investigation will tonight accuse three FIFA executives of taking bribes in a corruption scandal involving around $100 million of secret payments. The Panorama programme will accuse a fourth FIFA boss of continued involvement in the corrupt sale of World Cup tickets.

All four are members of FIFA's executive committee and will be voting on England's 2018 World Cup bid this Thursday. None of the men have responded to letters from Panorama setting out the programme's allegations.

The three FIFA executives accused of taking bribes all received secret payments from a sports marketing company.

International Sports and Leisure (ISL) was awarded the exclusive marketing rights for successive World Cups and other sporting events after allegedly bribing sports officials around the world.

Now Panorama has obtained a confidential document from inside ISL that lists 175 secret payments made between 1989 and 1999. The payments total about $100 million and Panorama understands that most were bribes paid to a handful of senior FIFA officials.

Many of the recipients of the bribes cannot be traced because the cash was paid through a series of front companies in Liechtenstein. The list given to Panorama shows that one of these companies, Sicuretta, received almost $50 million. Another Liechtenstein company, Sanud, received 21 payments totalling $9.5 million.

But with Sanud there is compelling evidence about who got the money – and it points to FIFA executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira. He's the head of Brazilian football and will host the World Cup in 2014.

Mr Teixeira was linked to Sanud by an inquiry of the Brazilian Senate in 2001. It found that funds from Sanud had been secretly channelled to Mr Teixeira through one of his companies.

Panorama told Senator Alvaro Dias, the man who chaired the 2001 inquiry, about the ISL payments to Sanud. He said: "This is another scandal – a big scandal."

The second FIFA executive committee member identified by the list of secret payments is Issa Hayatou, the head of African football. His name appears next to a cash payment of 100,000 French Francs in 1995.

The third FIFA executive on the ISL list is the head of South American football, Nicolas Leoz.

He was named in connection with two ISL payments totalling $130,000 during court proceedings in 2008.

But the list obtained by Panorama shows that he received three further payments of $200,000 each. So Mr Leoz was paid $730,000 by ISL.

Panorama showed the list to Swiss MP Roland Buechel. He said: "It's incredible, the sum is incredible and I'm surprised that there have been so many payments over such a long period. I think it will be a big surprise up in FIFA House. We are not speaking about sports, we're speaking about corruption and politics can't be kept out of that. After decades of corruption, we need now an external, an international and an independent investigation into the FIFA books."

Reporter Andrew Jennings has been investigating FIFA's links with ISL for nearly 10 years, but he only obtained the crucial ISL documentation last month. He said: "This astonishing list shows how ISL systematically bribed some of the leaders of world football for more than a decade. We have named three of them today, but we believe that other FIFA executives received cash through the Liechtenstein companies."

ISL went bust in 2001 and details of the bribes scandal slowly emerged as the Swiss authorities investigated the collapse of the company.

Six ISL managers were tried in 2008 for mis-using company money. But they were never tried for commercial bribery because that was not an offence in Switzerland at the time.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter declined to comment on the three FIFA executives who had taken bribes. But he said that the Swiss court case had largely exonerated the managers of ISL: "It is important to stress that no FIFA officials were accused of any criminal offence in these proceedings."

What Mr Blatter failed to mention, however, is that FIFA officials were the subject of a second investigation by a Swiss magistrate.

He completed his investigation into the ISL affair this June and concluded that FIFA executives had taken kickbacks on marketing contracts. But their names were kept secret as part of an out of court settlement which saw them pay back £3.5 million.

David Mellor, who used to run the government's Football Task Force, says that FIFA is in urgent need of reform: "I don't understand in this day and age when everybody is concerned in every other walk of life about accountability and about freedom from even the suggestion of corruption, let alone the reality of corruption, it astonishes me that FIFA continues the way that it does.

"I understand why people want the World Cup... but I can't help feeling it would be a better role for England to actually stand up for fair play and actually be insisting on the reform of FIFA, making FIFA transparent, making FIFA accountable.

"Far more important than anything else in world football is to get a FIFA that is clean and fit for purpose and we don't have that at the moment."

Tonight's programme will accuse a fourth member of FIFA's executive committee of attempting to tout World Cup tickets.

Jack Warner, a FIFA vice-president, has been featured by Panorama before, for selling tickets on the black market for the 2006 World Cup.

FIFA subsequently ordered Mr Warner's family business to make a $1 million donation to charity "to compensate for the profits it had made through the resale of 2006 FIFA World Cup tickets".

Now Panorama has evidence that Mr Warner used his position to try to help touts obtain tickets for the 2010 World Cup. He ordered tickets costing $84,240 from the FIFA ticket office but the deal subsequently fell through.

David Mellor tells the programme: "I think that it's almost impossible to think of any other organisation where the kind of allegations can be so repeatedly made as have been made against Mr Warner, and that he could survive."

David Cameron is hoping to meet Mr Warner in Zurich this week as part of the England Bid team's lobbying ahead of Thurday's vote.

The four men featured in the Panorama film are in addition to two members of the FIFA executive committee exposed by a Sunday Times investigation into corruption.


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