In Good Conscience

The best chance of uncovering sleaze is gone

South Korean tycoon Chung Mong Joon (above right) has been banned for six years by Fifa and (above left, from top) Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days. Just six of the 25 officials who awarded the 2018 a
South Korean tycoon Chung Mong Joon (above) has been banned for six years by Fifa and Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days. Just six of the 25 officials who awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively are still serving Fifa.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
South Korean tycoon Chung Mong Joon (above right) has been banned for six years by Fifa and (above left, from top) Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days. Just six of the 25 officials who awarded the 2018 a
South Korean tycoon Chung Mong Joon has been banned for six years by Fifa and (above) Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days. Just six of the 25 officials who awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively are still serving Fifa.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
South Korean tycoon Chung Mong Joon (above right) has been banned for six years by Fifa and (above left, from top) Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days. Just six of the 25 officials who awarded the 2018 a
South Korean tycoon Chung Mong Joon has been banned for six years by Fifa and Sepp Blatter, (above) Jerome Valcke and Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days. Just six of the 25 officials who awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively are still serving Fifa.PHOTO: REUTERS
South Korean tycoon Chung Mong Joon (above right) has been banned for six years by Fifa and (above left, from top) Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days. Just six of the 25 officials who awarded the 2018 a
South Korean tycoon Chung Mong Joon has been banned for six years by Fifa and Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and (above) Michel Platini have all been suspended for 90 days. Just six of the 25 officials who awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively are still serving Fifa.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Fifa, finally, has been handed the baton from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the proverb "a fish rots from the head down".

When the Federation Internationale de Football Association over the past three weeks suspended Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Michel Platini on suspicion of corrupt dealings, it effectively damned its own leadership of this, and potentially the next, regime.

The word suspicion has to be in there because all three gentlemen of the Fifa hierarchy are proclaiming their innocence of any wrongdoing, even though their 90-day suspensions come from football's supposed ethics committee.

Their banishment means that, of the 25 men who in December 2010 voted to give the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, just six are still in office and untainted by accusations of profiteering.

Of those, Issa Hayatou, the Cameroonian head of the African Football Confederation, has assumed temporary charge of the discredited House of Fifa in Zurich.

Mr Hayatou has, thus far, faced down accusations about his own implications in smelly deals, having survived a reprimand from the IOC as well as allegations within football.

Who among the Fifa top table ever dared to question the way that Havelange and Blatter ran things? It was Chung. Before he was ousted in the now Arab-controlled Asian Football Confederation, he was the "loose cannon" inside the executive committee, the billionaire who asked provocative and unwelcome questions of Havelange and Blatter.

One is tempted to go back to the original proverb. Apparently it stated that the "stink" rather than the rot emanates from the head. No one is certain whether the saying is Chinese or Ancient Greek or even Russian, so maybe another creature from Greek mythology is more appropriate for Fifa.

How about the hydra - a so-called serpent that couldn't be slain because the more often anyone tried to cut off its head, two more, equally poisonous, appeared in its place.

Just how deep the stinking head of Fifa is, or was, we still do not know.

Hans-Joachim Eckert, the German judge appointed by Blatter to run Fifa's adjudicatory chambers of the ethics committee two years ago, had little option but to suspend Blatter, his secretary-general Valcke, and Platini after Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings involving millions paid to Platini by Fifa, and many millions more given to the Caribbean regional president - ex-president, Jack Warner, from television rights.

Eckert is the man who, on Fifa's behalf, issued a 42-page summary of the report by American lawyer Michael Garcia into Fifa and the bidding for the two World Cups.

He cleared Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing in their bids, but Garcia resigned from his Fifa-paid post after saying that the short version did not truly represent what is in his 350-page report.

That report, Eckert still maintains, cannot be published or even seen by Fifa members because of legal implications.

We might guess that May's FBI raid on Fifa members in their beds in Zurich was triggered by the testimony of yet another Fifa member to fall, the American Chuck Blazer, the discredited former head of the Fifa marketing and television negotiating team.

Blazer, who has cancer, admitted his financial crimes and turned informant against Fifa to try to ameliorate his punishment in the US courts - if the law wins the race against his cancer.

But who, or what, can start the cleansing process of Fifa's rotted fish head?

Platini maintains that he is wrongly accused, and still intends to stand for the presidency next February.

Chung Mong Joon of South Korea, a former vice-president and to this day an honorary member of Fifa, is another of the candidates.

Is, or was?

Blatter has a habit of taking down, one way or another, any rival for the seat he has occupied since 1998, and the throne he stood next to for 40 years since the first corruptor, Joao Havelange, took office in 1974.

The 99-year-old has been proved in court to have embezzled millions from Fifa accounts, but his influence permeated not only Fifa but the IOC for decades .

The Brazilian remains at large in his country, having been allowed to resign from both the football and Olympic august circles without answering the ruling by a Swiss court that ISL, a bankrupted former Fifa marketing partner, paid Havelange and his then-son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira US$50 million (S$70.6 million) in kickbacks and bribes.

Who among the Fifa top table ever dared to question the way that Havelange and Blatter ran things?

It was Chung. Before he was ousted in the now Arab-controlled Asian Football Confederation, he was the "loose cannon" inside the executive committee, the billionaire who asked provocative and unwelcome questions of Havelange and Blatter.

Chung, a member of the Hyundai family and a long-term member of the South Korean congress, had fought with Fifa to win a half-share with Japan to jointly stage the 2002 World Cup with Japan.

His father had been instrumental in Seoul staging the 1988 Olympics, and it was the father who created the Hyundai business empire after defecting from North Korea as the son of a peasant father.

The Chungs, you might imagine, are pretty determined people.

In London on Wednesday, Chung ruffled a few of the remaining feathers Fifa still had. Addressing leaders in sport at a conference in Chelsea, Chung junior said he is running for the Fifa presidency "because I care, because I love football".

Offstage, he told me, he knew he had so many enemies. He had addressed Fifa as worse than a mafia, and called Blatter "a hypocrite and a liar".

Moreover, Chung declared that he would sue Blatter personally for the US$100 million that a New York court awarded MasterCard against Fifa in relation to a broken contract awarded to Visa after a judge ruled that Fifa lied in the negotiations and in her court.

Chung had asked questions of Blatter at executive committee level, and now, the Korean said, he will take him to court for the money lost, and for the salary that Blatter paid himself without approval from the executive committee.

"The fact that I am the target of Mr Blatter's smear campaign is clearly the most powerful endorsement for my candidacy, and the best proof that I am the person to lead Fifa's reforms," Chung's speech in London concluded.

Within a matter of hours, while Chung was in the air bound for Korea, the Fifa six-year ban on him was announced.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'The best chance of uncovering sleaze is gone'. Print Edition | Subscribe