Posted on Jul 12
FIFA president Sepp Blatter insisted on Thursday that he did not have the power to punish former supremo Joao Havelange after the 96-year-old Brazilian was accused of taking bribes.
Court documents released in Switzerland revealed that Havelange, FIFA president for 24 years before Blatter stepped into the hotseat in 1998, pocketed at least 1.5m Swiss francs (£986,000) and FIFA executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira at least 12.74m.
The bribes, made by International Sport and Leisure (ISL), were detailed in documents made public by Switzerland's supreme court and published by the BBC on Wednesday.
FIFA's discredited Swiss-based marketing partner collapsed in 2001 with debts of around $300 million.
But Blatter went on the attack on Thursday, insisting that he was powerless to sanction his predecessor.
"I don't have the power to call him to account. The Congress named him as Honorary President. Only the Congress can decide his future," Blatter told www.fifa.com.
Blatter insisted that payments were not illegal under Swiss law at the time.
"Known what? That commission was paid? Back then, such payments could even be deducted from tax as a business expense," he said.
"Today, that would be punishable under law. You can't judge the past on the basis of today's standards. Otherwise it would end up with moral justice. I can't have known about an offence that wasn't even one."
Blatter admitted he had been referred to as P1 in the court documents.
"It was the Swiss Federal Court that decided to make the publication of the ISL non-prosecution order anonymous. As far as I am concerned, the whole document could have been published 'clean', to put an end to the speculation once and for all," he said.
"However, the Federal Court stated that the 'names of all non-accused third parties' should be made anonymous. I am not accused, so I have been made anonymous as P1, which quite honestly is not difficult to find out."
FIFA published the Swiss court's report on its website on Wednesday and in a statement world football's governing body emphasised that while Havelange and Teixeira were identified Blatter was not.
"The decision of the Swiss Federal Court also confirms that only two foreign officials will be named as part of the process and that.....the FIFA president is not involved in the case," the statement stressed.
The court documents did reveal that FIFA chiefs had knowledge that Havelange and Teixeira had been paid bribes by ISL.
It also disclosed that FIFA had agreed to pay 2.5million Swiss francs (£1.64m) in compensation - but only on the condition that criminal proceedings against Havelange and Teixeira were dropped.
Havelange, who remains FIFA's honorary president, stepped down after a 48-year-spell as a member of the International Olympic Committee last December just days before an ethics hearing into his links with ISL.
Havelange was accused by a BBC documentary in 2010 of kickbacks totalling $1 million from ISL for granting lucrative World Cup contracts.
Havelange, who became an IOC member in 1963, was FIFA president between 1974-98 before he was replaced by Blatter, his long time FIFA secretary general.
In May he was discharged after two months in hospital in Rio de Janeiro where he was being treated for an ankle infection and cardiac and pulmonary problems.
He is the former father-in-law of Teixeira, who recently resigned as head of Brazilian football and as chief of Brazil's organizing committee for the 2014 World Cup following a spate of corruption allegations.
Havelange was instrumental in bringing the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro and to South America for the first time when in 2009 the IOC elected the city as the 2016 host.
At the vote in Copenhagen he famously invited IOC members to his 100th birthday party on Copacabana beach in 2016 should they award the Games to Rio.