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Havelange falls in bribery scandal
by Paul Kennedy, May 1st, 2013 12:33AM
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[FIFA] It was not a good day for FIFA.

Its former president, 96-year-old Joao Havelange, was forced to resign his position as honorary president after a FIFA ethics committee report confirmed what had been suspected for years -- Havelange, his former son-in-law, Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira, and former South American confederation president Nicolas Leoz had taken millions of dollars in bribes from defunct marketing agency ISL.

(Click here for full report of Hans-Joachim Eckert, chairman of the FIFA Adjudicatory Chamber, on the ISL case.)

The report described "not inconsiderable amounts" being channeled to Havelange, Teixeira and Leoz via front companies and described as “commissions,” known today as “bribes” (Eckert's words) over an eight-year period (1992-2000).

The ISL payoffs were so blatant that one $1 million payment intended for Havelange mistakenly went to a FIFA account.

When Sepp Blatter, then the organization's general secretary and now its embattled president, found out about it, he had the money returned to ISL. Blatter went to great lengths Tuesday to say he had been cleared in the affair, saying "conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules."

The worst the report could say was that Blatter acted "clumsily." While there has been no evidence of Blatter taking any bribes, few believed he could have been blind to what was commonplace in the 1990s: massive bribes being handed out as ISL tried to keep FIFA members happy as revenues for televison rights fees and other commercial properties exploded.

Unbelievably, Havelange, Teixeira and Leoz couldn't have been charged with crimes since the acceptance of bribe money was not punishable under Swiss criminal law at that time. As far as ethics go, FIFA didn't even have a code of ethics until 2004.

Havelange retired as FIFA president in 1998, leading to Blatter's election as president in a campaign that produced charges of widespread bribery.

Teixeira quit the FIFA executive committee and his posts as president of the Brazilian soccer federation and World Cup 2014 organizing committee in March 2012, while Leoz only quit last week as a member of the FIFA executive committee and president of Conmebol.

In a separate matter relating to undetermined misdeeds, FIFA Adjudicatory Chamber closed its file on Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka, who was banned from soccer for eight years.

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