Blatter cleared in ISL case as FIFA names remain a mystery

Thursday, 24 June 2010

By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

June 24 - FIFA President and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Sepp Blatter was today cleared of any wrongdoing after the release of a Swiss court finding which claimed that senior FIFA officials were involved in a major bribery scandal.

Swiss Prosecution officials in Zug claimed that leading football officials were involved had taken bribes from the ISL/ISMM group, the former marketing agent of FIFA, the IOC and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), who collapsed in 2001 with debts of £153 million ($229 million).

It has been alleged that more than £66 million ($99 million) was paid to leading sports officials in bribes to secure valuable marketing and television rights contracts.

The Prosecution office in Zug issued a statement today which said: "Foreign persons of FIFA-institutions have received provisions from the ISL/ISMM."

The officials refused to reveal the names of those involved but, as Blatter is a Swiss national, the court's statement absolves him of receiving any financial misdemeanours.

But the Paraguayan FIFA Executive Committee member Nicolas Leoz had previously been found to have received two separate payments from ISL totalling around £85,000 ($127,000).

His name was included on a list of payments made to sports officials via bank accounts in tax havens such as Liechtenstein which was released to the court during a hearing in March 2008.

Leoz was among the FIFA officials feted by Princes William and Harry (pictured) at a special reception in Johannesburg last Saturday (June 19) to help promote England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

The list showed that just under £9 million ($13 million) had been paid to sports officials between 1999 and 2001.

But Marc Siegwart, one of three judges hearing the case, told the Zug District Court that one of the defendants had admitted during the investigation that a total of £58 million ($87 million) was paid out by ISL between 1989 and 1999.

The names of the officials who received the bribes have not been named because none of the defendants were facing bribery charges as it was not an offence at the time under Swiss law.

But today's statement from the Prosecutor's Office revealed that those involved in the case have agreed to make a financial contribution to the cost of the case.

The statement said: "In the proceedings the accused have denied criminal responsibility, but not the receiving of the funds.

"They are, however, willing to pay by the prosecution of redress available to qualified amount of 5.5 million CHF (£3.3/$4.9 million).

"Part of the restitution payment in the amount of 2.5 million CHF (£1.5 million/$2.2 million)) is to non-profit organisations.

"The defendants have also assumed the costs."

The main defendant was Jean Marie Weber, ISL's former chairman, who repeatedly refused to reveal who had received money but claimed during the trial that the fees were legitimate business expenses, necessary in the sports business world to secure lucrative TV and marketing contracts.

ISL was originally been set up by former Adidas boss Horst Dassler and enjoyed close connections with FIFA for 20 years before the company fell apart.

The IOC's relationship with ISL had ended in 1995 when they set-up an in-house operation to deal with marketing and television rights.

A statement from FIFA said: "FIFA is pleased that the prosecutor of Zug has finalised his investigations which followed the 'ISL/ISMM case'.

"It is important to recall that the decision was made on matters which took place prior to the year 2000 and that there has been no court conviction against FIFA.

"In addition, the FIFA President has been cleared of any wrong-doing in this matter.

"As the investigation and the case are now definitely closed, FIFA will make no further comment."

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