Fri, Jul 13, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Ex-FIFA boss Havelange named in bribery case

Reuters, LONDON

Former FIFA president Joao Havelange and his former son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira took multimillion dollar bribes on World Cup deals, Swiss prosecutors said in a legal document released on Wednesday, dealing a fresh blow to world soccer’s governing body.

The two Brazilian soccer administrators were named for the first time in a case which has its roots in the 1990s, but will add to the pressure on FIFA to show it is cleaning up its act.

The document, issued by the prosecutors’ office in the Swiss region of Zug, noted that both Teixeira and FIFA’s legal representative had denied any criminal conduct. Havelange did not comment on the accusation of criminal conduct, it added.

Havelange, a Brazilian who was head of FIFA from 1974 to 1998, received a payment of 1.5 million Swiss francs (US$1.53 million) in March 1997 from now-defunct sports marketing body ISL, Swiss prosecutors said.

ISL sold the commercial rights to broadcast the World Cup on behalf of FIFA. It collapsed with debts of about US$300 million in 2001.

Teixeira, who led the Brazilian Football Confederation from 1989 until stepping down earlier this year, took SF12.7 million between 1992 and 1997, prosecutors said.

Released after pressure from a number of media groups, the document gave details of a Swiss criminal case which was dropped in May 2010 after Havelange and Teixeira agreed to pay reparations.

Havelange, who is 96 and has been suffering from poor health, and Teixeira have been two of the leading figures in Brazilian sports administration for decades.

The two men could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

FIFA issued a statement welcoming the release of the documents and noting that Havelange’s successor, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, was not involved in the case.

However, the documents raise questions over how FIFA handled corruption in its ranks, saying the organization was aware its officials had taken bribes.

“The finding that FIFA had knowledge of the bribery payments to persons within its organs is not questioned,” the 42-page document said.

FIFA has been rocked by a series of corruption allegations in recent years which have led to the departure of five of its executive committee members, including Teixeira.

Brazil are the only country to have won the World Cup five times and will host the tournament in 2014, while Rio de Janeiro stages the Summer Olympics two years later.

“With the constant feeding that took place over several years, the services of not just Joao Havelange, but also those of Ricardo Terra Teixeira, were bought,” prosecutors said.

“The latter was the son-in-law of Joao Havelange — a circumstance from which the ISMM/ISL Group hoped, without doubt, to achieve appropriate benefits,” it added.

Teixeira, who has had a series of disputes with Brazilian soccer idol Pele, stepped down in March from his role as head of the organizing committee for the 2014 World Cup and his role as head of the soccer federation.

Havelange resigned from the International Olympic Committee in December last year, days before an ethics hearing into his conduct in the ISL affair.

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