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Friday, July 13, 2012

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Hands of power: Former FIFA president Joao Havelange (left) and former Brazilian soccer federation president Ricardo Teixeira stand with Pele in this 2001 photo. AP

FIFA names Havelange, Teixeira in scandalous kickback case


GENEVA — Former FIFA president Joao Havelange and one-time Brazilian soccer leader Ricardo Teixeira received millions of dollars in a World Cup kickbacks scandal, soccer's world governing body confirmed on Wednesday.

FIFA finally published a Swiss court dossier which detailed that Teixeira received at $13 million from 1992-97 in payments from World Cup marketing partner ISL. The Swiss-based agency's collapse into bankruptcy in 2001 sparked a criminal probe and exposed the routine practice of buying influence from top sports officials.

The 41-page document showed Havelange received a payment of about $1 million in 1997, one year before he was succeeded as FIFA president by Sepp Blatter.

Payments "attributed" to accounts connected to the two Brazilians totaled almost $22 million from 1992-2000.

The scale of kickbacks tied to World Cup broadcasting and marketing deals was revealed in a report by a prosecutor in the Swiss canton (state) of Zug who investigated Havelange and Teixeira for "embezzlement, or alternatively disloyal management."

The document had been blocked from publication since June 2010, soon after prosecutors, FIFA and two of the most powerful men in world soccer reached a settlement deal to close the criminal investigation.

FIFA, Havelange and Teixeira repaid $6.1 million to end prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand's probe on condition that their identities remain secret.

Teixeira, who repaid $2.5 million, denied criminal conduct. Havelange, who paid $500,000, "did not comment on the accusation of criminal conduct," the report said.

Before agreeing to repay $2.5 million, FIFA made its "consent conditional" upon dropping proceedings against its former president and then-serving member of its executive committee, the report showed.

FIFA released the document hours after Switzerland's Supreme Court threw out an appeal by Havelange and Teixeira to suppress the dossier, and announced its ruling that media organizations should receive details of the ISL case.

"FIFA is pleased that the ISL non-prosecution order can now be made public," soccer's world governing body said in a statement.

Still, Hildbrand's report criticized FIFA as "a deficient organization in its enterprise" prior to ISL's collapse.

Havelange and his former son-in-law Teixeira "unlawfully used assets entrusted to (them) for (their) own enrichment several times. FIFA suffered an equivalent loss."

After helping broker the anonymity deal, FIFA was also a party to earlier appeals to block publication until dropping out of the case last December.

Calls Wednesday to the Brazilian Football Confederation, which Teixeira headed for 23 years until March, rang unanswered.

Blatter — who served as Havelange's secretary general for 17 years — said in October that he wanted to release the ISL dossier despite his organization seeking to deny reporters access to its contents at the same time.

Though Blatter has not been accused of accepting unethical payments, the ISL affair has clouded much of his 14-year FIFA presidency. Seeking closure has become central in his promised mission to improve FIFA's image and governance.

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