Blatter: FIFA member likely to quit over kickbacks
ZURICH (AP) — Sepp Blatter expects at least one member of FIFA's executive committee to leave his post because of the ISL kickbacks case.
"It does look like some people won't be able to stay on the executive committee," Blatter told a German newspaper in an interview published Sunday.
Blatter's comment could refer to Ricardo Teixeira, who heads the Brazilian 2014 World Cup organizing committee and has been linked to the 10-year-old scandal that has cast a shadow on much of the FIFA president's reign.
FIFA has promised to publish Swiss court papers next month identifying senior officials who took payments from ISL. The marketing agency owned World Cup television rights until its 2001 bankruptcy with debt of around $300 million.
In 2010, FIFA said two senior officials repaid kickbacks then worth $5 million on condition of anonymity. It has since blocked the court in Zug from releasing documents.
British broadcaster BBC has named the officials as Teixeira and his former father-in-law Joao Havelange, the longtime FIFA president who Blatter succeeded in 1998.
Blatter, who has said he's committed to wide-ranging anti-corruption reforms, will publish the ISL dossier on Dec. 17 after his executive committee meets in Tokyo. An undisclosed outside body will later advise FIFA's high command on what action to take if it finds members guilty of wrongdoing.
"Either they would have to resign or wait to find out what the independent investigators decide," Blatter told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Brazilian federal prosecutors have said they want the document to help investigate possible money-laundering offenses by Teixeira.
In an interview also published on FIFA's website, Blatter distanced himself from some of his executive committee, saying the members "have varying concepts of ethics and morals."
"I didn't choose them and I can't be held accountable for their actions. I'm the figurehead of this organization, but I'm not a dictator," he said.
However, Blatter defended Issa Hayatou, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) president, who was also named by the BBC for taking around $20,000 from ISL in 1995. Hayatou said it was a gift for the governing body.
"According to the CAF accounts, which we also examine, the money has been correctly accounted for," Blatter said.
Havelange and Hayatou are both International Olympic Committee members — like the FIFA President — and are being investigated by its ethics commission using BBC evidence.
The IOC's executive board is scheduled to consider disciplinary action at a Dec. 7-8 meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, one week before FIFA reopens its ISL case.
Blatter insisted he was not implicated in wrongdoing over ISL. Agency executives who stood trial in 2008 for financial misdeeds acknowledged paying tens of millions of dollars to sports officials, although kickbacks from commercial deals were not then a criminal offense in Switzerland.
"Those who are hunting me and suggesting that Sepp Blatter is on the (ISL) list are plain wrong," he said.
Blatter said FIFA's top officials will soon be screened for a "solid character reference" by a transparency task force created in his "zero-tolerance" reforms.
"These people will ensure the new executive committee members are ethically and morally sound," he said.
He suggested that a "solutions committee," which is key to the credibility of reforms, could examine the FIFA ethics panel's work in banning his former election rival Mohamed bin Hammam for life.
The panel also cleared the FIFA president of turning a blind eye to the Qatar candidate's alleged plot to bribe voters. Bin Hammam claims Blatter helped orchestrate the scandal to ensure victory.
"I have nothing to confess, to regret or to apologize for in that regard," Blatter said.
Blatter said the ethics committee could soon be asked to investigate another executive committee member, Worawi Makudi, over how FIFA funds were spent in his native Thailand.
"It's about our money," Blatter said. "We received information from Thailand that the project would be constructed on land that we had paid for which apparently already belonged to him. The case is ongoing at a High Court in Thailand."
Blatter's interview was published following several days of hostile media reports in England after he suggested racial abuse between players could be settled by a handshake and quickly forgotten.
"We need to bring the image of FIFA back to the same level as football," Blatter said. "Football has a very positive image."