Swiss politicians will propose legislation ending FIFA’s tax and legislative privileges if it does not take firm action against officials involved in the case concerning its former marketing partner by the end of the year, an MP said on Wednesday.
The legislation would also affect dozens of other international sporting organizations based in Switzerland including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Roland Buechel told Reuters in an interview.
Buechel, a leading critic of the way FIFA has handled corruption over the last few years, welcomed the appointment of two leading crime fighters on Tuesday to investigate and judge suspicions of wrongdoing in soccer's governing body.
Former U.S. attorney Michael Garcia has been named as head of the investigative chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee while German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert will head the tribunal.
Buechel said he wanted to see concrete action taken in the case involving International Sport and Leisure (ISL) and it would be a positive signal if Joao Havelange stepped down from his position as FIFA’s honorary president.
Havelange, who headed FIFA from 1974 to 1998, and former FIFA executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira were identified in a court document released last week as being among those who had received bribes from ISL.
ISL went bankrupt in 2001 with debts of around $300 million (192 million pounds). Teixeira quit FIFA's executive committee earlier this year.
“It is positive to split the ethics committee into an investigative and judicial chamber, it's a good thing,” said Buechel. “It’s necessary, in fact it should have been done many years ago.”
“The litmus test will be the ISL case, if they really look into that and don't just play for time.”
Buechel said that much of FIFA’s work had been done for them as the case had already been investigated by a court in the Swiss canton of Zug.
“There is not much investigation to do, they could take action really soon,” he said.
“A very good sign to the outside world, the football family, would be if for one reason or another, Havelange steps down from his position.”
“If they give him an honorary departure that is fine,” said Buechel. “But the Swiss parliament wants to see something happening, if not it will be really difficult not to take political action.”
Buechel said that Switzerland's Ministry for Defense, Civil Protection and Sport was compiling a report on the sports organizations based in the country and that it would be ready by the end of the year.
FIFA’s action in the next few months would play a fundamental part in the contents of the report and whether further action was taken, he said.
He said the ethics committee needed to further investigate the actions of FIFA executive committee members Nicolas Leoz and Issa Hayatou in the ISL case.
“FIFA should take action against these two people, that would be important,” said Buechel.
Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), was reprimanded by the IOC last year after he admitted receiving ISL payments although these were not judged to have constituted a bribe.
Leoz, president of the South American Football Confederation, was accused in a BBC Panorama program of receiving money from ISL.
Buechel said that if no action was taken, he would be among those demanding a bill to end the favorable legislative and tax breaks which international sports organizations, which are classed as non-profit organizations, enjoyed under Swiss law.
This would include making them subject to anti-corruption laws.
“We cannot have a FIFA law so it would affect everyone,” he said. “It must be clear, I will act and I’m sure many other MPs will help because they have seen what's going on. “There is no more hiding, the time is up.”