Football: Fifa donates 48 confiscated luxury watches from officials to charity

ZURICH (REUTERS) - Football's world body Fifa, mired in the worst graft scandal in its history, is giving 48 Swiss watches worth up to US$25,000 each to a children's football charity after a year cajoling officials who received them from Brazilian football authorities to give them up.

The watches were left on the hotel beds of football officials including members of Fifa's executive committee and representatives of national football associations attending a Fifa congress in Brazil before the 2014 World Cup.

Fifa, though dogged by corruption accusations for many years, was pitched into crisis in May when police raided a Zurich hotel on the eve of a congress arresting several officials.

Fourteen, including two former vice-presidents, have been indicted for corruption in the United States.

Fifa's ethics committee, which last year determined the gifts handed out by the Brazilian Football Association violated its ethics rules, said on Thursday that it had donated the Parmigiani-brand watches to Germany's streetfootballworld, to be sold to benefit the group's youth programmes in Brazil.

Getting the watches back was a struggle, a Fifa spokesman said.

Some people pleaded they had given the watches to charity, or to a friend. Others offered to pay cash.

"We did the utmost to receive every single watch. It was hard work," the spokesman said. "We didn't let someone get out with a weak excuse."

Initial reports indicated 65 watches were handed out. Eventually, the Brazilian Football Association said only 57 people confirmed receipt.

Six people said they had lost the timepieces, the Ffa spokesman said, adding three did not arrive for various reasons, cutting the total of returns to 48.

Fifa said it saw no legal grounds to pursue those who said they never received the watches.