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Page last updated at 21:33 GMT, Sunday, 11 June 2006 22:33 UK

The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup

Panorama's reporter Andrew Jennings

By Andrew Jennings
Panorama reporter

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 revealed in a programme screened on Sunday 11 June 2006.

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.

Here are some of your comments and if you want to ask Andrew Jennings a questions about his investigation please click on the debate at the top of this page under Andrew's picture.

Eric Dickens, Netherlands (expat Brit)

I am not a fan of football in its wildly commercialist guise, and was most encouraged by Andrew Jennings' exposť of the rotten state of FIFA. One of the best Panorama programmes I've seen.

Mike Slater, West Midlands

I thought your reporter in the series was like a little terrier trying to get evidence. Excellent. I look forward to the next series concerning Fifa.

James Conduit, Billericay, Essex

I thought the FIFA programme was very good and the story needs to be told. But, how is the timing of the broadcast going to help the England Football team. Surely there will be negative reaction to the report from senior FIFA members and they need no distractions from their task.

Yasir Ahmad, Blackburn

Without sounding too cynical, what on earth does anyone else expect? The sheer amount of money generated in football - there are undoubtedly going to be kickbacks.

Panorama: The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup was on BBC One June 11 2006.



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