Friday, January 6, 2012

Journalists Refuse FIFA's Invitation to Testify

FIFA's "Good Governance" Committee, chaired by Mark Pieth, has invited a dozen journalists to provide testimony to the committee as input to its deliberations. Apparently, the hearing is supposed to be off-the-record and behind closed doors -- That in itself is a damning statement about the integrity of the reform process.  Several of the reporters are refusing to participate, and have written a letter to Mark Pieth explaining their decision.

While I understand the principled stand of these journalists, my two cents of advice to them is to participate in the process, even if they see it as deeply flawed. By testifying they place the ball in FIFA's court to respond. By not participating they give FIFA a free pass to ignore their critiques. 

Here is an excerpt from the letter, signed by Andrew Jennings, Jens Weinreich and Jean François Tanda and a similar letter was sent by Thomas Kistner, detailing 20 questions/recommendations from these journalists:
What should be happening:
  1. Without delay Blatter can and must publish his personal copy of the report by Zug Investigating Magistrate Thomas Hildbrand into kickback corruption at FIFA and the recipients of more than 140 million Swiss Francs (US$100 million) in bribes paid by former marketing company ISL/ISMM.We are advised that there is no legal impediment to Blatter putting his copy online today. We do not believe his claims that unnamed people are delaying publication by him. We are told that the report destroys his claim in June 2010 to have been ‘cleared’ by the investigation.
  2. Blatter should publically instruct his friend Jean-Marie Weber, who organised the 140 million Swiss Francs  worth of kickbacks paid by ISL, to disclose the identities of all sports officials who received them.
  3. FIFA should adopt immediately genuine transparency. This means putting all FIFA information online – as do all first world governments – including audio/visual streaming and written minutes of all committees, accompanied by all reports submitted. All votes on all occasions must be recorded by name.
  4. FIFA’s published accounts are a disgrace, designed to disguise how football’s money is spent – and on whom. KPMG should be replaced by an auditor committed to transparency.
  5. Publication of all confidential management letters from auditors KPMG since 1999. These contain explosive evidence about misuse of FIFA funds and criminal money-laundering through FIFA’s Finance Department.
  6. All FIFA financial documentation since 1998 when Sepp Blatter became FIFA President should be put on-line – and then subjected to independent forensic examination.
  7. This material should include all payment orders made by Blatter using his astonishing power to be sole signatory of cheques. Let the world see a list of who got the money.
  8. FIFA’s Finance Department must produce the documentation of the $1 million kickback of March 3, 1997 from ISL to Havelange that was mistakenly sent to FIFA’s UBS account and then re-routed by General Secretary Blatter to Havelange.
  9. Immediate suspension of FIFA ExCo member Nicolas Leoz, identified in court in Zug in March 2008 as the recipient of $130,000 in bribes from ISL. (Later we discovered he got an additional $600,000!)
    FIFA can achieve the above, swiftly, without any outside intervention. That would show a genuine commitment to reform. Then the investigations can commence.
  10. We think that the only credible approach is for Professor Pieth to be empowered to hire a reputable, independent investigative company to conduct due diligence into all areas of alleged FIFA corruption. We suggest the following crucial areas of investigation followed by rapid publication:
  11. The salaries, bonuses and other benefits paid in the last decade to Blatter, Jérôme Valcke and all departmental directors.
  12. All fees, bonuses and expenses – submitted and paid – of ExCo members in the last decade. And details of their Swiss tax arrangements.
  13. The contracts and cost since 1998 of Blatter’s use of expensive chartered jets, his destinations and justifications for trips.
  14. The allegations of corruption in the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and to Qatar in 2022 and the actions, where appropriate, of ExCo members Issa Hayatou, Jacques Anouma, Hany Abo Rida and Amos Adamu. This crucial investigation should be handled professionally by law enforcement agencies or an independent investigation company, and where possible, liaising and assisting the current FBI investigations.
  15. Investigating all aspects of the FIFA-related activities of Worawi Makudi of Thailand including the disclosure of money from FIFA’s Goal and FAP-programme and also World Cup TV rights for Thailand.
  16. Investigation of allegations made in Argentina that FIFA finance committee chair Julio Grondona controls offshore accounts, mostly in Switzerland, containing $120 million. There seems no obvious source of this wealth.
  17. Investigation is long overdue into how Chuck Blazer could simultaneously be both Treasurer and General Secretary of CONCACAF – and the secret payment to him of $10 million in recent years as ‘commissions.’ Have his offshore assets come from FIFA funds – including his vintage Mercedes car registered in Zurich in FIFA’s name?
  18. Re-open the investigation into Jack Warner and extend it to embrace every payment of any kind since 1998 to Warner, members of his family, companies owned by him including Simpaul travel agency, the CFU, CONCACAF and the João Havelange Centre of Excellence.
  19. Investigate Blatter’s election campaign expenses for every election including 1998. In that campaign he charged his expenses to FIFA.
  20. Who paid Walter de Gregorio and Brian Alexander to organise Blatter’s campaign in 2011 to retain the Presidency? Mr Alexander does not appear to be employed by FIFA but he briefs reporters at FIFA House on behalf of Blatter. Who pays him now?


  1. HOLY SMOKES that is a precious photo you've found to accompany this post.

  2. Would you try to dry yourself while standing beneath a running shower?
    I agree with the decision of them to not participate. For two main reasons.

    1, you probably remember the IOC trying to reform themselves after the huge corruption scandal, right? Looking back at their goals. Are they really preventing corruption from taking place? Hardly, I would say. And now, FIFA, the organisation which is probably even in more serious trouble, tries the same. They are controling the body which they want to use to change themselves. This does not make any sense. This is like thinking an alcoholic has the best idea of how to get sobered up. Jennings, Weinreich, Tanda and Kistner are right with their requests to have a fully independent body looking at their figures/processes and history. Jack Warner has once said that he has not seen a iota of corruption in his role as financial president of FIFA. Well, then what is there to fear for FIFA and Blatter when people can have a look at their numbers? Everything less than independent exploration of the past and present of FIFA is a step in the wrong direction. So, why joining it when after all, since the advise of the group can be overruled by the ones it tries to change? Since these reforms can and probably might not have an affect at all.

    2, I can understand that - under these circumstances - the group does not want to get used by spin doctors paid by FIFA. The whole idea of reforming for me seems to be an act. Inviting your enemies a clever idea. Why? Well, because you can publish the 'results' and have a note added, that all these changes (and not-changes) were implemented with advise of the ones opposing FIFA and giving them bad credit.

    You write 'By testifying they place the ball in FIFA's court to respond.' well, all four have responded in a way, have they not? If FIFA is truly willing to reform, these 20 points would need to be implemented anyway. However, I bet, not even half of these points will be in place and transparent for all of us by the end of this reform.

    My best guess is the following: FIFA will implement another group - similar to the ethics committee - , led by some fancy european half-independent sports politican. This body will be in the role of an advisor to the executive committee and give them immediate incidents when- and wherever corruption is taking place. It will also have full overview of all financial transactions and will provide hints where it detects unclarities. And this idea will be sold to the media which will carry the light of knowledge to the masses telling them that FIFA will be clean within a few years while there will be a few old men laughing their asses off, sipping their champagne while looking at their secret bank accounts expanding more and more.

  3. Tiberieus-

    Thanks for your comments. I see your point, and share some of your concerns. I judge that these journalists, who have done excellent investigative work, would do more to facilitate reform by exposing the process and its flaws rather than eschewing it.

    But of course reasonable people can disagree on this point;-)