Former FIFA president Joao Havelange has resigned from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), just days before the Brazilian member faced suspension from the Olympic body in a decade-old kickback scandal stemming from his days as the head of world soccer.
The 95-year-old Havelange — the IOC’s longest-serving member with 48 years of service — submitted his resignation in a letter on Thursday night, according to a person familiar with the case.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Havelange’s decision has been kept confidential.
The move came a few days before the IOC’s ethics commission was scheduled to recommend heavy sanctions against Havelange in the case involving FIFA’s former marketing agency, ISL.
Havelange, an IOC member since 1963, has been under investigation by the ethics commission for allegedly receiving a US$1 million payment from ISL. Two other IOC members, International Association of Athletics Federations president Lamine Diack and African soccer official Issa Hayatou, are also under investigation, but face much lesser penalties.
A two-year suspension, or even a possible expulsion, for Havelange was expected to be considered at Thursday’s IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. With his resignation, the ethics case against him is expected to be dropped.
Havelange, a former Olympic swimmer and water polo player, served as FIFA president for 24 years before being succeeded by Sepp Blatter in 1998. He remains honorary president of FIFA.
The ethics case stems from a BBC documentary last year into kickbacks allegedly paid by ISL, which owned the World Cup television rights and collapsed with debts of US$300 million in 2001.
Citing Swiss court documents, the BBC’s Panorama program alleged that Havelange took a US$1 million payment from ISL. Hayatou and Diack, who were not IOC members at the time of the scandal, were also identified as receiving money.
The ISL case was the subject of a Swiss criminal trial in 2008. FIFA has blocked the court in Zug from revealing which officials repaid US$6.1 million in kickbacks. The officials repaid the money on condition that their identities remained anonymous.
Ricardo Teixeira, Havelange’s former son-in-law and head of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup organizing committee, was also identified by the BBC as having received payments. Teixeira is not an IOC member. Brazilian federal authorities are seeking the Swiss documents to investigate possible money laundering.
Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported on Saturday that Havelange was “expected” to resign from the IOC before the ethics commission ruling.
Blatter, who is also an IOC member, said in October that FIFA’s executive committee would “reopen” the ISL dossier at a Dec. 16 meeting in Tokyo as part of a promised drive toward transparency and zero tolerance of corruption.
Hayatou and Diack face likely warnings or reprimands — not formal suspensions — from the IOC for conflict of interest violations in the ISL affair.
Hayatou, an IOC member since 2001 and Africa’s top soccer official, reportedly received about US$20,000 from ISL in 1995. He has denied any corruption and said the money was a gift for his confederation.
Diack said he received money after his house in Senegal burned down in 1993. Diack, who was not an IOC member at the time, has said he did nothing wrong and is confident of being cleared.