In secret, they confess…
Zug, September 21, 2009:
FIFA President Sepp Blatter swallowed his pride and travelled in his chauffeured black Mercedes from his luxurious office high above Zurich to the austere lakeside office in Zug of the Chief Prosecutor, Christian Aebi.
Blatter’s driver was probably wise enough not to point the president’s gaze to the adjacent building, home to the Cantonal courtroom where the previous year the Six ISL executives had performed their own version of the FIFA Theatre of the Absurd.
Blatter did not need reminding that Christophe Malms’ lawyer had revealed the ultimatum by him and Havelange that the Bagman Jean Marie Weber must keep his job at ISL – or they lose FIFA’s contracts.
Waiting for Blatter in Zug was investigating magistrate Thomas Hildbrand. The last — and only — time Blatter had met him was when Hildbrand led the unexpected raid on FIFA House four years earlier in November 2005. Alongside Blatter was lawyer Dieter Gessler, paid by FIFA, but appearing to represent Blatter as well.
Chief Prosecutor Aebi took Blatter and Gessler through the evidence of embezzlement by the two Brazilians and the benevolent setup at FIFA that made it so easy for them to steal. Blatter must have realised that all his lies and wriggling in the previous few years had not deterred the investigators; if anything it would have hardened their attitude.
Over the years they were learning that Blatter’s public pronouncements about his ‘mission to the world’ was a smokescreen concealing the looting of FIFA’s wealth.
Havelange and Teixeira had now been indicted formally – all kept secret of course – and the investigation was moving slowly, but inexorably to endgame. Yet all the participants in the swindling seemed confident they would get away with it.
THE BAGMAN, Jean-Marie Weber, was still welcome at the IOC (how many of its members did he bribe over the years?) and in August of 2009 had been a guest in Berlin for the joint meeting of the executive councils of the IOC and the IAAF before travelling on to Copenhagen for the IOC Congress and decision on which city would host the 2016 Olympics.
Lamine Diack, president of international athletics, had been on Weber’s bribe list. In Berlin it must have been like the good old days – comradeship and rich living, secrets and thieving – all paid for by sport.
An ISL executive – one of the clean ones – told me years earlier that Diack and his predecessor Italian Primo Nebiolo were bribed by ISL in the 1980s and 1990s because marketing and television rights to track and field championships were very profitable.)
Rubbing shoulders with Weber at the Berlin Intercontinental Hotel were IOC Director General Urs Lacotte, Sports Director Christophe Dubi, office manager Christophe de Kepper – close confidant of President Jacques Rogge – and Gilbert Felli, longtime Olympic Games Executive Director.
Doing his best to keep reporters away from Weber was Michael Kontos, the Hill & Knowlton PR man who has laboured for a decade to improve the IOC’s dirty image.
Photo: Former FIFA president Joao Havelange.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Matias Recart)
HAVELANGE STAYED AWAY while his expensive Swiss lawyer tried to protect him. Havelange wasn’t risking coming to Switzerland and being arrested – as Weber had, back in 2002. Early in 2009, he phoned associates at FIFA to tell them that he was staying home in Rio where he felt safe.
Great efforts were made to slither around Swiss law so the two Brazilians could keep their stolen money. Who fought for them?
It was Herr Gessler who argued that there was no law banning commercial bribery when the bribes were paid. Hildbrand tossed this away, pointing out that the two Brazilian scoundrels were accused of embezzlement, not bribery. The crime was stealing from FIFA. All three men had betrayed FIFA and world football.
FIFA Lawyer Gessler wouldn’t give up. He was being paid by FIFA to get the money back but instructed separately by President Blatter to achieve the opposite, to fight to prevent Teixeira and Havelange repaying anything. Desperately, Gessler argued that if action had been taken against the FIFA crooks in South America or Africa, rather than Switzerland, the money could not have been reclaimed because bribery was a way of life in those countries.
Will President Blatter dare to go public and tell the football associations – and all the people – of those two continents – that in private he sneers at them, stereotyping them as crooks. Don’t hold your breath.
Hildbrand found Havelange and his successor Blatter, guilty of ‘disloyal management.’
At last, a deal was agreed. Under Swiss law the Brazilians could repay some money, FIFA pay the legal costs of the prosecution and the case ended.
But FIFA — that’s Blatter — had to admit disloyal management and Teixeira and Havelange had to admit the betrayal of world football.
The Brazilians also had to admit they had embezzled from FIFA and on condition that the verdict was kept secret forever, they agreed to repay some money. Teixeira handed back 2,500,000 Swiss Francs.
THERE WERE STILL details to haggle over. At the beginning of February 2010 Havelange submitted a declaration of his wealth and income. It was a transparent fantasy.
Had he gambled away the $45 million he stole from ISL?
Through his lawyer Havelange claimed that all his assets were jointly owned by him and his wife and totalled only 5.2 million Swiss Francs. The liar got away with handing back 500,000 Swiss Francs.
FIFA paid more of football’s money to a Swiss Professor who gave them the opinion they wanted: That FIFA didn’t lose any money because ‘There are no indications that better offers were made by other sport marketing agencies.’
Blatter must have forgotten to tell this scholar about the IMG opening bid for 2002 marketing and TV rights of $1 billion and the promise to top any other offer.
It seems unlikely that Aebi and Hildbrand paid any attention to this nonsense.
Blatter agreed that FIFA would pay 91,970 Swiss Francs towards the costs of the investigation of the Havelange and Teixeira rackets.
Football lost, again.
The case was closed on May 11, 2010.
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