FIFA snubs England World Cup bid,
prefers Oz billionaire ‘who used IOC
Royals dirty bank to dodge taxes’
England’s hopes of hosting the 2018 World Cup have suffered a setback with president Sepp Blatter appointing the billionaire leader of Australia’s rival bid to FIFA’s prestigious World Cup organising committee.
There are no British members on the 31-man committee, overseeing the next tournament in South Africa, but it includes members from America and China, also potential bidders.
The choice of Frank Lowy, 77, president of Australia’s federation and the world’s biggest shopping mall owner to join FIFA’s inner circle, is hard to fathom. He has never been a player in FIFA’s politics but has entertained some of its leaders on his 242-foot yacht Ilona, one of the world’s largest.
Lowy, said to be worth £2.3 billion, will have unparalleled opportunities to press Australia’s case to stage 2018. On the World Cup committee are 15 of the 23 members of FIFA’s executive committee who will make the decision. Lowy said, ‘it is wonderful recognition of the growing credibility and reputation of Australia within the global football community.’
Australia’s media is jubilantly describing Lowy’s FIFA appointment as ‘a shot in the arm’ for their bid.
Lowy’s Westfield company is building a £1.6 billion mall at White City in West London, due to open at the end of October. He was welcomed to Downing Street by Gordon Brown in early July after contracting to build the East London Stratford shopping development at the gateway to the 2012 Olympics site.
But Lowy’s image was dented later that month when his family was pilloried by a US Senate committee investigating alleged tax evasion. Westfield is one of the biggest mall operators in America and Lowy’s son Peter, an American citizen living in Beverly Hills, was summoned to Capitol Hill to explain why $68 million was laundered through Zurich, the British Virgin Islands and Delaware on its way to an anonymous account in Liechtenstein.
Peter Lowy, accompanied by ‘super-lawyer’ Robert Bennett who defended President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, refused to answer questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The Australian tax authorities are currently investigating Frank Lowy and his secret Liechtenstein account. In 1992 and again in 1994 he had to settle large claims. Last week he said, ‘I do not believe I have done anything wrong.’
Lowy was involved in controversy six years ago when he admitted payments to Tony Blair’s friend, former pop music promoter Lord Levy, to ‘advise on the UK retail market.’ He denied using Lord Levy to buy access to Ministers.
In 2007 he was embroiled in a corruption investigation into Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert but subsequently cleared of impropriety in the privatisation of Bank Leumi. Between 1994 and 2007 he was a non-executive director of the Daily Mail’s parent company.