Blatter & Havelange named in Swiss
For more than a decade Andrew Jennings has been telling anybody who would listen that the sports marketing company ISL paid industrial-scale bungs to the men who control world sport. In March 2008 he travelled to a criminal court in Switzerland to hear prosecutors reveal it was even worse than he’d imagined.
Tuesday March 11, 2008, Zug: Here they come, pretending it’s just an ordinary day, past the hyenas hovering in the glass and brick canyon leading to the court door, nod to familiar faces, sorry can’t stop to chat, daren’t be late.
Up until the dawning of this century it was so different. The Big Six happily gave us interviews, smiled for our cameras, catered the vol-au-vents and waved releases announcing New Clients! New Sports! Global Domination!
The Prosecutor here in the small Swiss City of Zug is demanding up to four-and-a-half years in jail for what’s becoming the biggest corruption scandal in sport. When International Sport and Leisure – always known as ISL - went down the toilet in the Spring of 2001 they owed more than $300 million, the second largest bankruptcy in Swiss history.
Their biggest and best contract was the marketing and television rights to the World Cup in 2002 and again in 2006. It cost them $1.2 billion to buy from FIFA but they could sell for lots more – and take 25% commissions on the way. How could such fantastically clever business whizzes go wrong? Where did the money go? By the end of today we should be getting some clues.
The square courtroom is the first surprise. It could be a conference room for salesmen in a no-frills business motel. At best it’s down-market Swedish, designed by the guy who trucked in the ready-mix. No podium, all of us on one level. And that’s hardwearing, composite flooring. The tall, lithe and quite lovely figure of 41-year-old blonde Presiding Judge Ziegler in her dark pant-suit (‘I’m Carole, spelled like the French,’ she purrs to me in a coffee break) sits flanked by her two middle-aged male colleagues at a table against the back wall.
There’s more rows of tables and chairs at the back for the reporters, Swiss, Germans, French - and me from an offshore island. In front of us a dozen or so strained relatives and an attentive young man in a suit who we’ll identify later. Facing the judges the once Big Six sit squashed with their lawyers and their tables are squeezed across the whole breadth of the room.
They’ve plenty to worry about. The prosecutor wants to stiff them for embezzlement, fraud and fraudulent bankruptcy as well as damaging creditors and falsification of documents. That’s enough scandal to fill our notebooks. But we want more; we came here for bribes. Be patient.
On the far right of the line-up is Daniel Beauvois, early 50s, living again in Brussels. With his swept-back greying hair and trim beard he’s the only one who looks creative. Daniel is lucky, he joined ISL to run their television operations long after the bribery scams were put in place. But he could still end up breakfasting on Swiss-government issue muesli because all six are accused of nicking around £45 million pounds they should have paid to FIFA. FIFA! At last Herr Blatter and his organisation get their names on the court record. It’s 11.02 on Tuesday March 11, two hours into the evidence.