Panorama to name officials forced to repay bribes

The makers of tonight’s Panorama, the latest investigation in to the dealings FIFA, are to name two senior FIFA officials who, following a Swiss criminal investigation last year, were forced by the law courts to repay bribes. The producers claim that FIFA has tried to prevent the officials being identified on their programme, and that the identity of one of the officials named will directly implicate FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

FIFA's Blatter, left, and bin Hammam: rivals for election next month

The programme, due to aired on BBC1 at 8.30pm, is the latest in a long-running campaign by reporter Andrew Jennings, delving in to allegations of corruption and vote-rigging surrounding the FIFA executive committee and president Sepp Blatter.

Blatter, 75, is seeking re-election as FIFA President, a post he has held almost unchallenged since 1998, for another four-year term. He has declared a policy of “zero tolerance” on corruption.

The election is to be held on June 1 with the Asian Football Confederation president, Qatar’s Mohamed Bin Hammam, standing against Blatter. Last week, England’s Football Association announced that it would abstain from the ballot.

In a House of Commons Select Committee meeting two weeks ago, Lord Triesman accused Ricardo Teixeira, a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee from Brazil, of saying, “Come and tell me what you have got for me.” The implication being that he wanted something in return for his vote for England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

The programme-makers say that last year’s Swiss court settlement relates to bribes paid to senior FIFA officials in the 1990s by ISL, the sports marketing company. Until ISL collapsed in 2001, the company had the contract to sell the TV rights and to market the World Cup to advertisers and sponsors.

Lawyers acting for FIFA are contesting a decision by the Swiss prosecutor in Zug to release details of the court settlement. Swiss journalist Jean Francois Tanda, who has applied for the Prosecutor’s Order, says that FIFA is delaying the document’s release by “stretching deadlines one after the other”.

“Now the next goal is not to have this decision published before the end of May beginning of June,” Tanda said.

In the run up to the vote to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups last year, Panorama accused three of the voters on FIFA’s Executive Committee, Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou and Teixeira, of receiving bribes from ISL.

Payments to the officials, and in Teixeira’s case a company linked to him, were on a secret list of payments worth $100 million made to numerous sports officials by ISL.

Panorama reporter Andrew Jennings also discovers new evidence against FIFA boss Jack Warner, one of the officials accused by Lord Triesman of making improper demands during the 2018 World Cup bidding round.

“The biggest source for tickets for the secondary market, which I call it, is people inside FIFA, people high up in FIFA,” Atle Barlaup, a Norwegian ticket agent, tells the programme. He claims that up to 40 per cent of World cup tickets are sold by FIFA officials directly to the black market, producing enormous profits for those involved. The sale of World Cup tickets on to the black market is prohibited under FIFA rules.

Lord Triesman used parliamentary privilege to accuse Warner of asking for an improper payment worth £2.5 million for a development in Trinidad. Warner denies the allegation.

Neither Warner nor Teixeira responded to questions from the BBC. FIFA refused to comment on the specific allegations but in relation to the Swiss prosecutor’s settlement, they have previously said that the case is closed.


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