Wed, Dec 01, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Anti-graft watchdog calls for halt to World Cup race

AFP, ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has called on FIFA to postpone the race to host the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cups following fresh media allegations of corruption.

The call from the campaign group came just before the executive committee of world soccer’s governing body is due to designate the two host nations tomorrow, in front of a high-powered gathering of world leaders and stars.

The selection of the 2018 and 2022 hosts “must be postponed until full light is shed on the allegations published in the press,” Transparency International Switzerland said in a statement on Monday.

“These have brought such discredit to the decision-making processes at FIFA that a decision in the current circumstances would only fuel the controversy,” it added.

The Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported that Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil, African soccer chief Issa Hayatou and his South American counterpart Nicolas Leoz were tied to a secret list of payments from bankrupt FIFA marketing partner ISMM/ISL over a decade ago.

An investigation by BBC -current-affairs program Panoroma, broadcast late on Monday, accused the same three executives.

Panorama also accused a fourth FIFA executive committee member, Trinidad’s Jack Warner, of attempting to sell World Cup tickets on the black market.

The program said it had obtained a confidential document from International Sports and Leisure (ISL), which detailed 175 payments totaling US$100 million made between 1989 and 1999.

Many of the payments were funneled to front companies set up in Liechtenstein, Panorama alleged, with much of the cash eventually being paid to a “handful” of FIFA officials.

The ISMM/ISL firm collapsed in 2001 in a controversy over alleged kickbacks for TV rights contracts, prompting a FIFA criminal complaint that was later dropped.

A Swiss court handed down fines on three ISMM/ISL executives in 2008 for embezzlement or accounting offenses.

Leoz was already listed as a recipient of suspect payments from the marketing firm, alongside several companies based in offshore havens, in evidence presented by the prosecutor in the Swiss canton of Zug in 2005.

Transparency said that even if those allegations were currently not proven, they needed to be investigated by an independent fact-finding body rather than FIFA’s ethics committee.

The race suffered embarrassment last month when the Sunday Times in London reported alleged misdealing in bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

That report prompted the FIFA ethics body to suspend two other members of the 24-strong executive committee, Oceania soccer chief Reynald Temarii and Nigeria’s Amos Adamu.

There were also signs that the secret ballot tomorrow could slip into confusion as the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) sought the right to vote by replacing Temarii.

FIFA had suggested it would run the ballot with 22 of the 24 committee members, excluding Temarii and Adamu. However, England 2018 bid chief executive Andy Anson was anticipating there would be 23.

FIFA wants Temarii to give up any appeal against his one-year suspension for misconduct, in return for another OFC official getting a vote tomorrow, Temarii’s lawyer Geraldine Lesieur said.

However, Temarii will only decide after receiving a fuller ruling in his case and for now, “we are in an impasse,” she said.

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