Havelange quits FIFA

Joao Havelange has taken the easy route out. Photo: PA

Former FIFA president Joao Havelange has resigned as honorary president of the world governing body after an ethics committee report named him as having received bribe money.

The long-awaited reported by FIFA's ethics committee into the scandal involving collapsed marketing partners ISL has named Havelange and two former executive committee members Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz as receiving bribes. All three have since resigned from FIFA.

The report by FIFA Adjudicatory Chamber chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert also calls current FIFA president Sepp Blatter's handling of the scandal "clumsy" but says it did not breach ethics rules.

The report states: "Mr Havelange has long held solely an honorary position, which does not qualify him as an 'official' under the code of ethics. Further, Mr Havelange resigned his position as honorary president effective 18.04.2013."

Blatter immediately issued a statement welcoming that he had been cleared of misconduct.He said: "I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that 'President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules'."I have no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that I proposed, now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue - which has caused untold damage to the reputation of our institution - does not happen again."

Eckert does question Blatter's role in the scandal however.He states: "It must be questioned, however, whether President Blatter knew or should have known over the years before the bankruptcy of ISL that ISL had made payments (bribes) to other FIFA officials."

The report states that in 1997, Blatter authorised the transfer of 1.5million Swiss francs (£1million) to Havelange after ISL mistakenly sent it to FIFA. But Blatter, who was then general secretary of the organisation when Havelange was president, told the ethics investigation "at that time he did not suspect the payment was a commission".

"President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules," says the report."The conduct of President Blatter may have been clumsy because there could be an internal need for clarification, but this does not lead to any criminal or ethical misconduct."

The ethics report does not state the total sum of bribes paid but says they took place over eight years between 1992 and May 2000.

"From money that passed through the ISMM/ISL Group, it is certain that not inconsiderable amounts were channelled to former FIFA President Havelange and to his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira as well as to Dr. Nicolas Leoz, whereby there is no indication that any form of service was given in return by them.

"These payments were apparently made via front companies in order to cover up the true recipient and are to be qualified as 'commissions', known today as 'bribes'."

Court documents state Havelange, now aged 96, received at least £1million and Teixeira at least £8.4million, and in total the pair may have received up to £14.5m. Leoz, now aged 84, was named in court as having received at least £80,000.

FIFA reform campaigner Damian Collins, an MP who sits on Parliament's culture, media and sport select committee, said Blatter should resign over the findings.

Collins said: "Sepp Blatter should himself resign for his failure to expose the wrongdoing sooner, and to take action earlier against those who had done wrong.

"In the light of this report, it is even more incredible that the FIFA executive committee continue to resist calls, from its own advisors, for greater independent scrutiny of its decisions, and the financial interests of its members.

"The impression created by this report is one of an attempted cover-up by FIFA of this massive corruption scandal motivated by the desire to protect some of its leading officials."