Letter obtained by FBI implies Blatter knew about bribes

LONDON • United States authorities are investigating evidence indicating Fifa's suspended president Sepp Blatter knew about US$100 million (S$140 million) in bribes paid to former members of the football body, a BBC report said.

The BBC investigation alleges that sports marketing company ISL paid a total of US$100 million to officials, including former Fifa president Joao Havelange and former Fifa executive Ricardo Teixeira.

In return, the company was handed television and marketing rights during the 1990s, the report said on Sunday.

Blatter has maintained he was unaware of the payments. But the BBC said it had seen a letter obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States that casts doubt on his denial.

The letter refers to the ISL payments and is alleged to have been written by Havelange, who notes that Blatter had "full knowledge of all activities" and was "always apprised" of them.

Blatter was Havelange's top deputy before taking over from the latter as Fifa president in 1998.

The BBC said Blatter had declined to respond to the allegations.

The 79-year-old, who was suspended in October for 90 days by Fifa's ethics committee, is due to stand down in February.

Blatter has also become the target of a Swiss criminal investigation over possible mismanagement at Fifa and a two million Swiss francs (S$2.8 million) payment made in 2011 to his would-be successor, Uefa boss Michel Platini.

The Swiss criminal probe spurred Fifa's internal ethics watchdog to launch a further inquiry. Investigators finalised their probe last month, handing over evidence to the ethics committee's judges, who will issue a verdict this month.

Platini is implicated in the same probe and investigators have called for a life ban against him.

But the requested punishment against Blatter is not yet known.

US prosecutors are probing several top football officials in a quest to root out graft at Fifa.

Late last week, 16 officials were charged with corruption in what the US Justice Department called an "outrageous" betrayal of trust by those who govern the sport.

The most recent charges involved pre-dawn arrests of two Fifa vice-presidents at a Zurich hotel.

While eight people implicated in US investigations have pleaded guilty so far, the United States attorney-general Loretta Lynch has said there remain 27 defendants from within global football.

They are alleged to have taken more than US$200 million in bribes and kickbacks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2015, with the headline 'Letter obtained by FBI implies Blatter knew about bribes'. Print Edition | Subscribe