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Havelange resigns as FIFA honorary president

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JOAO-HAVALANGE-2ZURICH, Switzerland, April 30 – Joao Havelange has resigned as honorary FIFA president over claims that he had accepted bribes, world football’s governing body announced on Tuesday.

Havelange stood down after being targeted in the findings of an Ethics Committee set up by FIFA to investigate a scandal involving the now bankrupt Swiss-based marketing agency International Sport and Leisure (ISL) and World Cup television rights.

The Brazilian’s conduct was described as “morally and ethically reproachable” in the report into the affair headed by FIFA’s ethics chairman, Hans-Joachim Eckert.

Havelange, now 96 and in poor health, is alleged to have taken improper payments during his time serving as FIFA’s seventh president between 1974 and 1998.

The report also accused Havelange’s son-in-law and former FIFA executive, Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz, of taking kickbacks.

But while qualifying as bribes, the report stressed that payments received by this trio between 1992 and May 2000 were not crimes at the time.

Leoz, accused in the report of being “not fully candid”, resigned last week from FIFA’s executive committee,

Havelange’s successor, Sepp Blatter, is said to have known about one payment to ISL destined for Havelange of 1.5 million Swiss francs ($1.6 million), with the report concluding that Blatter’s conduct was “clumsy” but not “criminal”.

Blatter welcomed the report’s findings.

“I have taken note of the report from the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, regarding the examination of the ISL case,” Blatter said in a statement.

“I note in particular that, in his conclusions, chairman Eckert states that ‘the ISL case is concluded for the Ethics Committee’ and that ‘no further proceedings related to the ISL matter are warranted against any other football official’.

“I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that ‘President Blatter’s conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules’.

“I have no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that I proposed, now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue, which has caused untold damage to the reputation of our institution, does not happen again.”

Tuesday’s ethics report seemingly draws a line under the damaging long-running affair which began when the marketing agency ISL folded with huge debts in 2001, triggering an investigation by Swiss authorities.

In 2010, BBC’s Panorama programme alleged that three senior FIFA offiicals had taken bribes from ISL, forcing FIFA, under orders from the Swiss supreme court, to hand over confidential documents relating to the case last year.

That release of papers led in turn to Tuesday’s findings.

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