July 6, 2016
Yesterday’s decision by the FIFA Appeals Committee to ban me for 5 years is disappointing.
In October 2015, after a year-long “investigation,” the Adjudicatory Chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee had banned me for 6 years. Yesterday’s decision was based on my appeal.
FIFA’s Ethics Committee started an investigation against me for “vote-trading” and “appearance of offering of benefit” during the bid for 2018/2022 World Cup venues. Both allegations were dropped in their final report.
The reason that I was given a 6-year ban regardless, was for “failure to cooperate” with the investigation, “breach of confidentiality,” and an “unethical attitude.” An investigation was started on groundless charges and when I tried to prove my innocence by showing why the accusations were false, I was accused of failing to cooperate and of “an unethical attitude”. Yesterday’s decision dropped yet another allegation, “breach of confidentiality.” Now, only two accusations remain, that I had failed to cooperate with the investigation and that I had an unethical attitude. All substantive charges have been dropped. The only charges remaining are subjective and ambiguous ones that only pertain to procedural matter that arose during the investigation.
From the beginning of this investigation, I had steadfastly maintained that the whole process was part of an unethical plot on the part of certain elements within FIFA designed to prevent me from further involving myself with FIFA. It is understandable that FIFA’s leadership always thought of me as a thorn in their side.
Ever since I was elected FIFA Vice-President in 1994, I have been a constant and vocal critic of many facets of FIFA’s way of doing business. During an international conference in 1995, I criticized the opaque procedure through which FIFA’s TV broadcasting rights were decided. During the 2002 ISL and 2006 VISA-MasterCard corruption cases, I demanded that Mr. Blatter take full responsibility. I even openly called on Mr. Blatter to make public his pay.
Just how corrupt FIFA was under Mr. Blatter’s stewardship has since been exposed by the massive investigations launched by US Attorney General and the Swiss Federal Prosecutor. During a US Senate hearing on corruption at FIFA, Senator Blumenthal said, “The fact of the matter is that what has been revealed so far is a mafia-style crime syndicate in charge of this sport. My only hesitation in using that term is that it is almost insulting to the mafia because the mafia would never have been so blatant, overt, and arrogant in its corruption.”If FIFA was an organization that retained a semblance of honor and integrity, it would have filed defamation charges against Senator Blumenthal if not the U.S. Senate. But while remaining paralyzed by such criticism, FIFA unhesitatingly singled me out saying that I am not allowed to criticize them because I belong to FIFA.
There is a considerable consensus questioning the independence of the investigatory and adjudicatory chambers of the Ethics Committee. According to my recollection, in all these years, there has never been a single instance where Mr. Blatter’s nominees to these chambers were rejected. In an interview, Mr. Blatter himself boasted “I put these people into the office, where they are now in the ethics committee.” (New York Daily, October 28, 2015). This is the point I have consistently made from the beginning, the very same point for which the Ethics Committee charged me for defaming it. I suppose in the spirit of being fair to Mr. Blatter and for the sake of consistency, it would be proper and just for the Ethics Committee to file charges of defamation against Mr. Blatter.
Rather than properly recuse himself from the decision regarding my appeal, the chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee presided over the very proceedings.The committee failed to adhere to the most basic principle of a fair judicial process that requires interested parties in a trial to recuse themselves.
What I find most disappointing is the fact that FIFA has not really changed. Had it fully acknowledged that FIFA’s way of doing things were wrong, such a decision would never have been rendered.
Correcting the wrongful decision by FIFA’s Ethics and Appeals Committees is not only a way to restore my honor, but also to contribute to the reform of FIFA. For this purpose, I shall exhaust all legal options available to me including an appeal to Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).