Chung says probe of charitable donations 'unethical'

SEOUL • Fifa presidential candidate Chung Mong Joon has come out fighting over reports that he is being investigated by football's world governing body over donations he had made to charities in several countries.

He said in a statement yesterday that payments he made to organisations in Haiti and Pakistan in 2010 were "charitable donations" and any attempt to use them as part of a reported ethics investigation was "cynical and unethical".

The South Korean billionaire added that he had been donating money to causes at home and abroad - including Turkey, Bangladesh, China and Myanmar - since the 1990s.

"If these reports are true, we condemn this as a cynical and unethical effort by Fifa to misrepresent even charitable donations for political manipulation," said the statement. Fifa's ethics committee declined to comment on the matter.

It is not the first time that Chung's name has been raised in a potential ethics case.

In November, he featured in Fifa's ethics report into the bidding process for the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, in which South Korea made a bid to host.

The report followed an investigation led by American lawyer Michael Garcia and looked into letters that Chung sent, in late 2010, to Fifa executive committee members about a proposal to establish a "Global Football Fund" supporting football development.

"According to those letters, Korea intended to raise US$777 million (S$1.1 billion) from 2011 to build new football infrastructure and renovate existing facilities," the report said. It added that the fund was linked to South Korea's 2022 bid.

The ethics report concluded: "There are certain indications of potentially problematic conduct of specific individuals in the light of relevant Fifa ethics rules."

The report mentioned that Fifa ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert "trusts that the Investigatory Chamber will take appropriate steps if it deems such measures appropriate and feasible".

A spokesman for Cornel Borbely, head of the Investigatory Chamber, declined to comment on whether any such steps had been taken.

Chung, who is the scion of Korea's Hyundai industrial conglomerate, told Reuters in an interview on July 30, when he stated his intention to stand for the Fifa presidency, that he feared outgoing president Sepp Blatter might try to sabotage his bid.

"I'm afraid president Blatter has a kind of plan to damage my candidacy, but if he tries to do something bad to my candidacy, I will try to fight that," he said .

Chung formally launched his bid to replace the Swiss as Fifa president in Paris earlier this week with a stinging attack on Blatter and Michel Platini.

The latter is head of European football's ruling body Uefa and a rival candidate for the presidency.

Blatter responded by saying he was "disturbed" by Chung's criticism, noting that South Korea had been an influential member of Fifa for 17 years until 2011.

Fifa will hold an elective congress on Feb 26 to decide on a replacement for Blatter, who is standing down following the organisation's corruption scandals.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'Chung says probe of charitable donations 'unethical''. Print Edition | Subscribe