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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 June 2006, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Fifa president in bribery probe
By Andrew Jennings
Panorama reporter

FIFA President Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter is under scrutiny as part of a bribery investigation
Fifa President Sepp Blatter is being investigated by Swiss police over his role in a secret deal to repay more than 1m worth of bribes pocketed by football officials, BBC Panorama reveals in a programme to be screened on Sunday.

Panorama interviewed employees of the bankrupt ISL marketing company who confirmed the company had paid bribes to Fifa officials over a period of nearly 20 years.

Fifa headquarters were raided by Investigating Magistrate Thomas Hildbrand last November and documents seized from the offices of President Blatter and his General Secretary, Urs Linsi.

Mr Blatter refused to be interviewed by Panorama - but has denied all the allegations.

The Swiss authorities will not discuss Hildbrand's investigation but Panorama has discovered he was in court in mid-April obtaining an order to acquire documents to further his inquiries.

'Evidence of bribery'

The ISL company was set up in 1982 and soon acquired the marketing and television rights to the Olympic Games, the World athletics championships and the football World Cup.

Rumours have circulated for years that senior sports officials took bribes in return for these lucrative contracts.

ISL collapsed in 2001 and when the liquidator took over the company's bank records he found evidence of bribes.

Some officials repaid the money but when others declined, the liquidator went to court. The result was a secret deal in early 2004 to repay more.

Magistrate Hildbrand is investigating the possibility that Fifa repaid the bribes - not the officials who took them in the first place.

'Vote-rigging'

ISL insiders tell Panorama that the bribes were paid systematically - 'like salaries' said one, through a secretive Liechtenstein foundation and an offshore bank account in the Caribbean

Panorama was banned from Fifa press conferences for asking questions about corruption.

And things got a little rough when we went to the Caribbean to investigate World Cup ticket rackets and tried to interview Fifa vice-president Jack Warner.

The programme also reveals how vote-rigging helped put president Sepp Blatter in power.

Even as Fifa officials secure the best seats in German stadiums, they know that Swiss investigator Hildbrand may soon be asking some of them to help him further with his inquiries.

  • The Panorama documentary, The Beautiful Bung - Corruption and the World Cup will be broadcast Sunday 10 June on BBC One at 2215 BST.

  • SEE ALSO:
    Spectacular opening for World Cup
    09 Jun 06 |  World Cup 2006


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