MUMBAI: Even as the football World Cup gathers momentum in Germany, football's
governing body Fifa is in a funk over a BBC Panorama show which aired in
the UK a few days ago.
The report was called The Beautiful Bung
Corruption and the World Cup. Veteran reporter Andrew Jennings revealed the
serious allegations and evidence that triggered a major investigation by the Swiss
authorities. The report had shown serious allegations of bungs, sleaze and vote-rigging
by some of the men running the World Cup.
In the programme, Jennings was
pushed by a Fifa vice president for asking him how much profit he plans to make
from selling World Cup tickets this year. Then he was banned from Fifa headquarters
for asking president Sepp Blatter on what he knows about kickbacks to senior officials
from a company seeking lucrative contracts.
The programme revealed
that over a million pounds worth of bribes have secretly been repaid. Not by the
officials who received the kickbacks, but, according to a secret court judgement,
by Fifa itself. Magistrate Hildbrand must decide if this act went against Swiss
law. If it did, some of the most senior Fifa officials could face jail.
has issued a statement stating that it takes exception to certain allegations
in Panorama. This does not mean that any of the other points raised are
acceptable to Fifa as the truth. Fifa notes that as confirmed by the relevant
authorities, it is completely false and defamatory to claim that either Blatter
or Fifa are the subject of a bribery probe by the Swiss police. Fifa says that
in the past, it was actually the victim of ISL irregularities. On the BBC show,
a senior executive from ISL, the former marketing company that paid the bribes,
had spoken anonymously to Jennings, revealing that 'bungs' were paid systematically,
frequently through offshore bank accounts, over a 20-year period.
was set up in 1982 and soon acquired the marketing and television rights to the
Olympic Games, the World athletics championships and the football World Cup. Media
reports indicate that rumours have circulated for years that senior sports officials
took bribes in return for these lucrative contracts. ISL collapsed in 2001 and
when the liquidator took over the company's bank records, he found evidence of
Some officials repaid the money but when others declined, the liquidator
went to court. The result was a secret deal in early 2004 to repay more. Fifa
says that it looks forward to the final proceedings in the Swiss courts, which
it continues to support. During his investigation for the BBC, Jennings travelled
from the Swiss Alps to the beaches of the Caribbean.