A British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) investigation has discovered that the FBI is investigating the role the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) president Sepp Blatter played in a $100 million bribes scandal.
In return for granting sports marketing company International Sport and Leisure (ISL) lucrative marketing and television rights throughout the 1990’s, a total of $100 million was paid to officials including ex-FIFA executive Ricardo Teixeira and former FIFA president Joao Havelange, according to the BBC. No action was taken by Blatter who denied knowing about the bribes. According to the BBC report, Blatter also allowed Teixeira to partake in the vote for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
A letter seen by Panorama reporter Andrew Jennings obtained by the FBI casts doubt on Blatter’s denial. Apparently written by Havelange, the letter discusses payment he received from ISL, and states that Blatter had “full knowledge of all activities” and was “always apprised” of them. The letter is part of the FBI’s request to Swiss authorities to aid in its investigation. A file of an earlier investigation into the bribes was requested by the FBI saying that “among other things, the prosecutor is investigating Havelange’s statements implicating Blatter”.
A Swiss legal finding that Havelange and Teixeria received bribes from ISL was suppressed by Blatter in 2010. In 2013, a FIFA ethics committee inquiry was told by Blatter that he was unaware of the bribery. Blatter was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Blatter announced in June that he would remove himself as the head of football’s world governing body in February on 2016. The 79-year old Swiss football administrator who is FIFA’s eighth president, and has been since June 1998, has been suspended from all FIFA activities. The 90-day provisional suspension also prohibits Blatter from representing FIFA in any capacity. He faces a mid-December hearing with the body’s ethics judge.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced last month that 16 more FIFA officials and associates were indicted as part of the ongoing investigation into the organization by the FBI.
Claims of corruption and financial mismanagement have persistently dogged Blatter, who like his predecessor, Havelange, sought to increase African and Asian countries influence in world football by expanding participating teams in various FIFA tournaments. Over his reign of FIFA, Blatter has been the overseer of greatly expanded revenue generated by the FIFA World Cup, along with the collapse of ISL, and numerous allegations of corruption regarding the bidding processes for FIFA tournament awards.