Sepp Blatter, FIFA president

FIFA donates 48 scandalous watches to non-profit organization

Leave a comment

GENEVA (AP) FIFA’s unethical weakness for luxury watches earned a windfall for a soccer charity working in Brazil.

A total of 48 Swiss watches given to soccer officials at the 2014 World Cup have been recovered and donated to a non-profit organization, the FIFA ethics committee said on Thursday.

The Parmigiani watches – valued at more than $26,000 each – were handed out in Sao Paulo to members of FIFA’s often-discredited executive committee, presidents of national federations whose teams played at the 32-team tournament and officials from South American federations.

Michel D’Hooghe, the longest-serving FIFA executive committee member, told The Associated Press on Thursday the watch he got had been a “poisonous gift.”

The gifts were from the Confederation of Brazilian Football, whose then-president Jose Maria Marin has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in a widening bribery case which has rocked FIFA and helped force President Sepp Blatter from office.

Marin, who was extradited to the U.S. from Switzerland this month and is under electronic surveillance at his Manhattan apartment, oversaw the gifts in clear breach of FIFA’s Code of Ethics. It allows only for gifts of “symbolic or trivial value.”

Still, gifting luxury watches has long been a tradition for FIFA officials and all who took the presents – or did not report them – risked sanctions under the code which was made stricter in 2012.

After ruling they were unauthorized gifts, FIFA ethics prosecutors decided against opening cases against officials who received a watch on the condition that they returned it.

“After contacting all potential recipients, 48 watches were returned to the investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee,” the FIFA ethics committee said in a statement.

A total of nine watches could not be returned, with six officials or federations saying they never had it in their possession, committee spokesman Andreas Bantel told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

One watch is still with an official who was arrested in Zurich on May 27 by Swiss federal police acting on a request by American prosecutors.

“He wanted to give it back but before he was able to, he was arrested,” Bantel said, declining to identify the man.

The CBF initially said 65 watches were distributed but the ethics investigation traced 57.

“We were very thorough in following up on this matter,” Bantel said.

FIFA earlier said the CBF obtained watches from its sponsor Parmigiani for $8,750 each. But an appraisal found they had a market value of 25,000 Swiss francs ($26,600).

A spokesman for the CBF, Fernando Torres, declined to comment on its role on Thursday stating that “this specific decision regards only FIFA.”

The watches will be given to an organization named streetfootballworld, “who will directly invest all resources generated through the sale of the watches into initiatives across Brazil that use football to drive social change.”

“The investigatory chamber of the ethics committee considers the matter to be closed,” it said.

D’Hooghe said he had no idea about the value of the “poisonous gift” which was within a bag featuring promotional material about Brazil.

“I had absolutely no interest in that watch,” D’Hooghe told The AP. “I found it in my bag and I did not know it was expensive. I gave it to a friend who visited the World Cup. I had to ask for it back.”

D’Hooghe, who was cleared by the ethics committee this year over a painting he received from a Russian friend during the 2018 World Cup bidding contest, said he now refuses any gifts.

“I don’t need any presents,” said the Belgian doctor, who was first elected to FIFA’s ruling panel 27 years ago. “I am an honorable man.”

AP Sports Writers Rob Harris in London and Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report

Qatar launches probe after rains exposed poor construction

Leave a comment

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Qatar has launched an investigation after heavy rains exposed poor construction in a country set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a deluge that saw water cascade through the roof of its $15 billion main airport.

[ MORE: 3 things learned – United v PSV ]

The investigation already is examining the work of five unnamed companies and others could be targeted as well in the probe launched by Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, who also serves as interior minister, the country’s state-run Qatar News Agency said.

“Parties responsible for dereliction or negligence, whether governmental or private, will be held accountable,” the agency said, citing a statement late Wednesday from Qatar’s Government Communication Office.

Reached for comment, officials at Doha’s Hamad International Airport issued a statement simply saying: “There was no impact to operations yesterday.” It referred other questions to the government.

The day before, at least 79.5 millimeters (3.13 inches) of rain fell at the airport, according to the Qatar Meteorology Department. Typically, the hot, desert country sees around 50 millimeters (1.97 inches) of rain in a year.

The sudden rainfall saw water pour out of the airport’s ceiling in several places, captured in online videos.

Qatar opened Hamad International Airport in April 2014, part of its effort to enter the competitive Gulf airline market. The 600,000 square meter (6.5 million square feet) passenger terminal complex was scheduled to be completed in 2009.

The airport is part of a multibillion-dollar building boom in Doha ahead of the 2022 World Cup. However, the push has seen Qatar criticized for the way it treats its large migrant worker population. There also have been accusations of shoddy construction.

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellap .

FIFA ethics committee seeks lifetime ban against Platini; Blatter refuses comment

FIFA President Sepp Blatter (R) gestures next to UEFA President Michel Platini prior to the opening ceremony of the 57th congress of the World football's governing body 30 May 2007 in Zurich.  AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI        (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Forget 90 days, and also banish 7 years from your mind. What FIFA wants to do to Michel Platini would last quite a bit longer.

The suspended UEFA president will be banned from soccer for life if FIFA’s ethics committee gets its way.

[ MORE: Blatter was “close to dying” ]

Platini’s legal team is up-in-arms over the threat, which comes after the Frenchman picked up nearly $2 million from disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

As of post time, Platini is still seeking the FIFA presidential chair when his 90-day suspension is completed.

From Sky Sports:

Platini’s lawyer Thibaud d’Ales described FIFA’s life ban demand as a “scandal” and “excessive”.

Blatter’s representatives refused to comment on whether the same request has been made against the Swiss official.

The report did not say whether Blatter’s representatives did grimace, wink, and tug on the collars of their shirts while making their statement.

If either of these men end up running FIFA, something has gone horribly awry. For Platini, it’s the cost of doing business with Blatter.

Report: Blatter was “close to dying”, now faces seven-year suspension

Germany v Portugal: Group G - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images
1 Comment

That invincibility cloak Sepp Blatter seems to think he owns? It’s apparently part of the emperor’s new clothes.

The disgraced FIFA president is serving a 90-day suspension for a payment to UEFA boss Michel Platini, who is suspended for the same period of time.

[ MORE: Palace chairman hoping for American sale by Christmas ]

And while Blatter is also under investigation by the FBI and could face a long time in, well, an American prison, he’s also staring down a long suspension from his beloved football.

From the BBC:

Fifa’s ethics investigatory committee is likely to have pushed for a minimum seven-year ban for both Blatter and Platini.

This is based on the similar length of time that Harold Mayne Nicholls – the man who wrote the technical inspection reports for 2018 and 2022 World Cup candidate nations – received for breaching “conflict of interest” rules.

Blatter’s had more serious concerns lately, having suffered through a health scare, one he thought could cost him his life:

“I was between the angels who were singing and the devil who was lighting the fire, but it was the angels who sang,” said Blatter.

“I was close to dying. At some stage the body says ‘no, enough is enough’.”

Right when you were feeling sympathy for the man, he goes and deems himself a John Milton for the soccer set.

Is that cold? Probably, and that’s because at some point covering the Blatter saga starts to feel like scenes with your least favorite character in your favorite TV show. Stay healthy, Mr. Blatter, and stay away.

FIFA rejects Blatter, Platini appeals against 90-day bans

Leave a comment

ZURICH (AP) Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have lost their appeals against their 90-day bans for financial wrongdoing.

[ MORE: Behind-the-scenes at Wembley ]  

The provisional bans prevent Blatter from working as FIFA president and stop UEFA President Platini from campaigning for the FIFA election on Feb. 26.

Their appeals were rejected Wednesday by FIFA’s appeals committee.

The two can file further appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with numerous reports stating that Platini intends to appeal via CAS.

[ MORE: France react to “special” night

The bans were imposed last month by FIFA’s ethics committee pending full investigations into a $2 million payment Blatter approved for Platini in 2011 as backdated salary.

Blatter and Platini are expected to appear before FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert in December.

Switzerland’s attorney general has also opened criminal proceedings against Blatter and questioned Platini for suspected criminal mismanagement of FIFA money.