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Council of Europe report criticizes Blatter in ISL corruption case

By Paul Gittings for CNN
April 24, 2012 -- Updated 1827 GMT (0227 HKT)
A turbulent period for FIFA began in May 2010. Whilst most of the world's soccer fans were more concerned with Africa's first World Cup finals that June, FIFA was presented with official bid documents by Australia, England, Netherlands/Belgium, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Russia, Spain/Portugal and the United States for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. During the ceremony at its Swiss headquarters, FIFA announced dates for inspections of the bidding nations from July-September. A turbulent period for FIFA began in May 2010. Whilst most of the world's soccer fans were more concerned with Africa's first World Cup finals that June, FIFA was presented with official bid documents by Australia, England, Netherlands/Belgium, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Russia, Spain/Portugal and the United States for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. During the ceremony at its Swiss headquarters, FIFA announced dates for inspections of the bidding nations from July-September.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sepp Blatter singled out in Council of Europe report into bribery allegations
  • Report finds it "extraordinary" he did not make public information held by FIFA
  • Blatter also criticized over remarks he made to CNN earlier this year
  • Report to be debated Wednesday by Council of Europe representatives

(CNN) -- Sepp Blatter has been criticized in a damning Council of Europe report into FIFA's handling of bribery allegations which only came to light after a sports marketing company that the world football governing body worked with went bust.

The report, which will be debated by the council's Parliamentary Assembly Wednesday, said it would be "difficult to imagine" that the FIFA president body would have been unaware of "significant sums" paid to unnamed FIFA officials by ISSM/ISL in connection with lucrative contracts for World Cup television rights.

The Council of Europe published testimony on its website, supplied to them by Thomas Hildbrand, the Swiss prosecutor in a court case investigating the 2001 bankruptcy and collapse of ISL.

Hildbrand said bribes worth at least 12.7 million Swiss francs ($14 million) were paid to a South American FIFA member, known as "person H," while another 1.5 million Swiss Francs ($1.65 million) went to another senior FIFA official, identified only as "person E," to secure the rights.

The Council of Europe covering report by French national assembly member Francois Rochebloine singles out Blatter for his part in the affair, although making no allegations of involvement in corruption.

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It states: "Mr. Blatter was technical director of FIFA from 1975 to 1981, FIFA general secretary from 1981 to 1998 and has been its president ever since. Since FIFA was aware of significant sums paid to certain of its officials, it is difficult to imagine that Mr. Blatter would not have known about this.

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"That does not mean he was directly involved in this case of backhanders. But I believe it is extraordinary he did nothing to make public all the information which FIFA had or has, and took no steps whether internally or via the courts to enable FIFA to obtain reparation.

"The money paid under the counter to certain unscrupulous officials should have been paid to FIFA."

Rochebloine's report concluded by highlighting remarks made by Blatter in answer to a question by CNN's Manesh Shrestha at a press conference in Katmandhu, Nepal on March 9 over calls for an investigation into his re-election as FIFA president.

Blatter was quoted as saying: "We need, naturally, also the acceptance of the political authorities -- but we don't like political authorities interfering in our internal affairs."

Rochebloine responded: "The independence of sport -- to which we remain committed -- should not become a defense for those who abuse their authority. It is wrong to have accusations without proof, but it is our duty to ask for the truth to be sought and established.

"The money managed by FIFA is money that belongs to football and not to its officials, but in addition no sports organization can become a place where the law does not apply and where corruption and fraud are in practice tolerated and go unpunished. What is at issue here is compliance with the rule of law."

FIFA gave its reaction to the report in an emailed statement to CNN: "FIFA has already made its position very clear on the report and on the ISL/ISMM closing order (FIFA has repeatedly said it would like the closing order to be published), and will not make any further comment for the time being."

Last month FIFA's executive committee announced plans for a new two-tier ethics committee -- one to investigate corruption, the other to rule on the cases.

It acted after corruption allegations in both last year's presidential race, won unopposed by Blatter, and the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

Blatter was the only candidate for a fourth term of office after Mohamed Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Federation, was suspended over bribery allegations and eventually banned for life by FIFA.

The Council of Europe report will be considered by over 300 parliamentarians from the 47 Council of Europe member states in Strasbourg.

The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 to foster co-operation between European states with particular reference to democracy, legal judgments and human rights.

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