Blatter defends stance on bribes case

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has defended his stance on bribery after Swiss court documents accused his predecessor Joao Havelange of taking bribes.

Blatter defends stance on bribes case
Marcello Casal Jr./ABr

Blatter, who succeeded Havelange as the head of world football's governing body in 1998, insisted in midweek he did not have the power to punish Havelange after the accusations against the Brazilian.

Court documents released revealed that Havelange, now 96 and FIFA president for 24 years before Blatter replaced him, pocketed at least 1.5 million francs ($1.52 million) and FIFA executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira at least 12.74 million.

The bribes, made by International Sport and Leisure (ISL), were detailed in documents made public by Switzerland's supreme court and published by the BBC on Wednesday.

FIFA's discredited Swiss-based marketing partner collapsed in 2001 with debts of around $300 million.

Blatter insisted on Thursday he was powerless to sanction his predecessor and added that such payments were not illegal under Swiss law at the time.

On Saturday, Blatter told Swiss newspaper Sonntagsblick in an interview for publication on Sunday: "I did not know until later, after the collapse of ISL in 2001, about the bribery.

"When I now say that it is difficult to measure the past by today's standards, this is a generic statement. To me bribery is unacceptable and I neither tolerate nor seek to justify bribery. But this is what I am accused of now.

"The Swiss Federal Court has this week proven wrong all those people, who for years have accused me of having taken bribes.

"Now it is on record what I have always said: I have never taken nor received any bribes. Now the same people are trying to attack me from a different angle: Okay, he has not taken any bribes but he must have known.

"Once again I only knew after the collapse of ISL years later. And this is because we instigated the whole matter. The people who attack me now know this is the case but still they persist. They want me out."

Earlier on Saturday, the German football federation (DBF) expressed dismay over the whole issue, which it deemed portrayed Blatter in a negative light.

DFB chairman Wolfgang Niersbach said he was "shocked" at Blatter's comments about the payments not being illegal under Swiss law at the time.

"The reaction of the president of FIFA shocked me. If FIFA people, and not the lowest among them, received money and the response is that that this was not illegal at the time then we at the DFB can only distance ourselves," Niersbach said on the sidelines of a meeting of Bundesliga referees.

Responding to comments from Bundesliga chairman Reinhard Rauball, who wants Blatter to resign, Nirsbach said: "That is a decision for him."

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Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

Three former German football officials and ex-FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi went on trial on Monday in Switzerland over suspicions that Germany bought votes to obtain the 2006 World Cup.

Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

The three defendants have indicated that they will not be present at the hearing in Bellinzona for a variety of reasons, including fear of travelling because of coronavirus contagion.

Swiss Linsi, 70, former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfgang Niersbach, 69, and Theo Zwanziger, 74, and 78-year-old former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt are being prosecuted for “fraud”.

They are accused by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office (BA) of concealing from the DFB the true destination of a transfer of 6.7 million euros ($7.6 million today), paid in 2005 by the organising committee to former Adidas boss, the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, via FIFA.

The case of former World Cup organising committee chairman Franz Beckenbauer is being heard separately because of the former Germany captain's poor health.

The investigation was prompted by a report in German publication Der Spiegel in 2015 that Germany had used a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros at the time) to buy votes and obtain the rights to host the competition at the expense of South Africa.

Beckenbauer is suspected of having asked Louis-Dreyfus, to contribute to this fund shortly before the vote on the host in the summer of 2000.

Louis-Dreyfus was allegedly reimbursed by the German Football Association on the pretext of expenses related to a FIFA gala evening, which ever took place.

Zwanziger, Niersbach and Schmidt have also been charged with tax fraud in Germany and the case is expected to come to trial in the coming months. cpb/pb/td