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Inside Fifa’s grand gravy train…Consultant paid US$712 an hour for ‘doing nothing’

By Robson Sharuko

The former chairman of the FIFA Independent Governance Committee was paid about US$712 an hour, US$5 477 a day and about US$2.7 million for “doing nothing”.

Rich pickings . . . Former FIFA anti-corruption adviser, Mark Pieth, is said to have received huge payments from the world football controlling body at a time he was supposed to be helping the organisation fight against such excesses
Rich pickings . . . Former FIFA anti-corruption adviser, Mark Pieth, is said to have received huge payments from the world football controlling body at a time he was supposed to be helping the organisation fight against such excesses

Mark Pieth is a professor of criminal law at Basel University in Switzerland and is widely considered to be close to former FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter.

A member of his team of consultants, Damien Heller, was paid 500 Swiss francs per hour, his name appears on invoices which show he billed FIFA for things like “dinner with IGC (Independent Governance Committee)”.

“Even the “publishing (of) IGC documents on the institute’s website,’’ according to the Swiss media reports yesterday, was also billed for FIFA to meet the bills.

Just talking to journalists, said the reports, was billed with FIFA footing the costs.

“Conversations with journalists are also regularly included in the invoices, the medium and names of the reporters are precisely listed,’’ the reports said.

“Costs for meetings — 200 000 francs. The papers also show that each member of the Reform Commission (IGC) received 5 000 francs per day, plus travel expenses in business class (8 000 francs flight).

“In total, each meeting cost around 200,000 francs.

“An invoice for three IGC meetings shows 13 members, 6 full days in Zurich, two days of preparation. 520 000 francs meeting allowances, 120 000 francs travel expenses. 45 000 francs accommodation. 9 000 francs food.’’

In a letter to former FIFA chief, Markus Kattner, Heller thanked him for the transfer of a huge amount of money.

“Dear Markus, we thank you for the transfer of 694 000 francs,” Heller wrote to Kattner.

When asked by the Swiss media, Pieth, who is on holiday, said he didn’t have the files at his vacation in Spain.

“I don’t have access to the files here in Spain, but you have been misinformed by FIFA,’’ he said. “I, myself, didn’t take any money as wages.

“I paid a fee to the university fund for my personal time. The Basel Institute had to pay the secretary and the media expert of our commission.

“It did not make a profit with the FIFA reform”. Yesterday, he issued a statement to the global media.

“It’s astonishing that the deputy secretary general of FIFA, Mr Alastair Bell, would come out with a media statement on Sunday morning, distorting facts drastically,’’ said Pieth’s statement.

“Using local Swiss media, he insinuates that the reform process had been costly and useless. He additionally places doubt on the independence of external affairs.

“His description of the reform process is incorrect.

“First, on cost, he forgets that the reform process went for two years, involving a Reform Committee of twelve members meeting at regular intervals.

The members had to be flown in from as far as Canada, the US and Argentina. They had to be paid salaries for their preparation and attendance.

“Furthermore, a secretariat was run by the Basel Institute, again, salaries had to be paid. Personally, I did not take a remuneration but I billed FIFA, on behalf of a University Fund, for my time.

“It would be rather strange to expect either the taxpayer, or an NGO, pay for the cost of reorganising a rich international sports organisation.

“Besides, it will be noted that, according to the FIFA annual report, the organisation spent US$2,4 million on judicial bodies in 2018 alone.’’

He said they were not connected to the Blatter regime.

“Second, the impression that the external officials of the Ethics Committee could have been dependent on the Blatter administration is rather bizarre, if one considers that the first thing they did was to impeach Blatter and (Michel) Platini,’’ reads the statement.

“That the reform process got stuck in 2012 is solely the doing of Infantino and UEFA who disliked introducing terms of office and an independent vetting committee.

“Overall, I believe FIFA is panicking in the face of the criminal investigation levelled against its president.’’

The stunning revelations come at a sensitive time for FIFA when the organisation’s president, Gianni Infantino, faces criminal charges in Switzerland.

Infantino says he will fight the charges and has been insisting he is innocent, spending days talking to leaders of the national associations, appealing for their support.

FIFA have also forcefully ejected any suggestion of wrongdoing against their president after the Swiss special federal prosecutor, Stefan Keller, announced a criminal investigation into him last week.

In response, FIFA’S deputy general secretary, Alasdair Bell, said there was “no factual basis whatsoever” for any allegations of criminality.

According to The Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdon, Bell said FIFA had not yet even been notified of any allegations, and he expressed impatience with the Swiss investigations into alleged corruption during the previous FIFA regime before Infantino was elected in February 2016, promising to reform and clean up the organisation.

“The new criminal investigation relates to three meetings Infantino had after his election with Switzerland’s then attorney general Michael Lauber, who was investigating many different allegations of corruption under the previous president of 17 years, Blatter,’’ the newspaper reported.

Bell told reporters there was no basis for the investigations.

And, yesterday, focus turned to Pieth, the former chairman of the Independent Governance Committee, who has been critical of Infantino. It was revealed, in Swiss media yesterday, Pieth actually received 2.5 million Swiss francs, from FIFA, for “absolutely doing nothing, during Blatter’s time as president of the organisation even though he was supposed to be leading the fight against corruption at the world football controlling body. That translated to 5 000 francs a day and 650 francs an hour.

The revelations, once again, highlights how FIFA has, for a long time, been transformed into a gravy train.

Those who are backing Infantino say the “corrupt establishment,’’ which the FIFA boss brought down, when he took charge of the organisation, is fighting back.

“Mr. Pieth and the Basel Institute of Good Governance have received millions in payments from FIFA, when it was under the leadership of Sepp Blatter,” said FIFA Under-Secretary-General (Administration), Bell.

“Among other things, it appears that Mr Pieth also set about lobbying the media and aligning himself with Mr Blatter, and other former FIFA executives, in suggesting the names of people who should preside over the meetings in the independent bodies of FIFA.

“Although he intended to work for a more transparent FIFA, it seems that Mr. Pieth failed to be transparent, for example, by not mentioning how many millions he, and his institute, received from Blatter’s FIFA.

“Conflict of interest, perhaps?”

Bell claimed Pieth and his partners “may have made millions by advising FIFA on governance issues,” but didn’t do that.

“What real changes did they achieve? The organisation basically remained the same and required intervention from the Department. Justice Department and the involvement of new leaders before any real reform was introduced,’’ said Bell.

“So, the next time Mr. Pieth and his partners publicly comment on the new FIFA and Gianni Infantino, they could also point out, for the sake of transparency and “good governance,” how much money they made from the old FIFA and Sepp Blatter.’’ The Herald