Will Sepp Blatter flee with FIFA’s billions?
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday November 13, 2011
FIFA president Blatter has given himself the authority to sign cheques without the approval of his staff or colleagues. Documents at the Zurich Commercial Register reveal that Blatter has had sole signatory powers for nearly two decades.
João Havelange, his predecessor as FIFA president, currently under investigation by the IOC for bribe-taking, had this power but as he lived in Rio, he allowed his then general secretary Sepp Blatter also to have sole rights.
As corruption allegations swirl around President Blatter he could, if he wanted, write himself a cheque for the $1.6 billion in FIFA’s bank account, take his empty suitcases to FIFA’s bankers UBS on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse, speed on to the airport, take his last trip on a FIFA-funded jet (he never flies scheduled airlines) and abscond to safe haven in countries like Burma, Russia, Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe where he has been given warm welcomes in the last year.
When Blatter took the presidency in 1998 he kept this power of sole signatory for himself but has denied it to his three successive general secretaries – including incumbent Jérôme Valcke. Even Julio Grondona, the chairman of FIFA’s Finance Committee, does not have this power.
Funny money bank accounts
Mr Grondona is currently under investigation by police in Buenos Aires following the revelation two weeks ago that he and his family and close aides control bank accounts in Switzerland containing more than $70 million. Although the accounts have featured prominently in the Swiss media, Blatter has declined to refer Grondona to FIFA’s Ethics Committee. Police in Buenos Aires are on the case.
This disclosure calls into question the reassuring reports of FIFA’s Audit Committee, chaired for many years by IOC member Franco Carraro who resigned in 2006 as President of Italian football after allegations of involvement in the Juventus match-fixing scandal. Mr Carraro was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.
He once commented that FIFA’s Code of Ethics ‘guarantees transparency and strictly ethical standards among the various bodies and officials of FIFA, and football in general.’
Another luminary of FIFA’s seven-member Audit Committee is Justino Fernandes, former governor of Luanda. He was attacked by philanthropist George Soros, the UK, the USA and the European Parliament after ordering the jailing of a critical reporter in Angola.
$9.5 million in kickbacks
Also on the Audit Committee is José Carlos Salim from Brazil, a close confidant of FIFA’s Executive Committee member Ricardo Teixeira, under investigation by Federal Police for tax evasion and money laundering following disclosures by BBC Panorama that he allegedly took $9.5 million in kickbacks from the company awarded FIFA’s World Cup marketing contracts. Mr Salim is an executive of the Brazilian football federation, chaired by Teixeira – who is in charge of the 2014 World Cup.
The existence of Blatter’s sole power of signatory also casts doubt on the due diligence of FIFA’s executive committee. Vice-president Issa Hayatou from Cameroun is under investigation by the IOC for bribe-taking. Nicolas Leoz from Paraguay was also accused by Panorama of pocketing $730,000 in contract kickbacks - but Blatter has again refused to act in either case.
Uhu – here come the Feds
American member Chuck Blazer may not have been troubled as he flouts good governance rules by being both general secretary and treasurer of regional football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. His offshore bank accounts and assets are currently being examined by the FBI – but Blatter declines to refer Blazer to the ethics committee.
Although there are no allegations of any kind against Michel Platini neither he nor Britain’s former FIFA vice-president Britain’s Geoff Thompson, or his recent successor Jim Boyce from Belfast, appear to have raised the issue of Blatter’s extraordinary power.
This reporter has been banned from FIFA press conferences since 2003 after he published a documented story disclosing that Blatter pays himself a secret six-figure annual bonus for ‘loyalty.’ Blatter announced the story was ‘fiction’ and promised to sue. He didn’t. Blatter refuses to reveal what he pays himself in salary, bonuses, expenses and other perks. And what he takes in cash.