Büchel on BBC: Swiss Parliament changes Money Laundering Laws, Fifa and Blatter affected
26. September 2014
Erschienen in: div. BBC-Programmen weltweit

Can you explain what the new money-laundering laws in Switzerland will mean for FIFA?

It means that members of the Fifa Executive Committee and even normal employees like Sepp Blatter’s secretary and many others will now be a so-called PEP. A PEP is a “Politically Exposed Person”. Fifa officials have exactly the same status as the worst dictators from Africa or Latin America.

How will this affect people like Sepp Blatter?

Any bigger movement on his personal bank account must be reported to the Swiss Authorities. The same happens to the members of his family, like for example his daughter.

Why has this law been passed?

Apparently, a majority of my colleagues in Parliament are fed up with the behavior of many sports officials.

Why has it taken so long for this law to be passed?

I don’t think that it has taken that long. It was even quite fast, if you consider the particular way of the Swiss law-making process. It all started with a parliamentary motion that I handed in in December 2010.

How serious a problem is the way that major sports bodies in Switzerland handle their cash?

More than 60 international sports federations have their headquarters in Switzerland. Therefore, the behavior of some of their officials has seriously affected the reputation of my country.

However, we shouldn’t forget that they are private organisations. Therefore, it is mainly a problem of their stakeholders. I still don’t understand why, for example, the big sponsors and the TV stations which pay huge amounts of money to get the rights to transmit sports events like the Football World Cup or the Olympic Games haven’t complained more loudly. They have never taken the necessary action.

In your opinion, is FIFA transparent or does it have questions to answer?

Fifa is still an organization with the same status as a yodeling association in a mountain village. Many people have many questions, not to the yodelers, but to Fifa.

Which questions?

For example: Why did Fifa officials accept watches that are more expensive than a middle-class-car? And how difficult was it to smuggle them from Brazil into 50 different countries?

I would personally like to ask each of the more than two dozen members of the Fifa Executive committee: How do you define transparency?

Would you like to see organizations like FIFA leave Switzerland?

No. But if some of them threaten to leave my country because over here they cannot behave in a corrupt way – well, then let’s say goodbye to them.

Why do you think that a culture of money-laundering and corruption has developed within major sports organisations?

In the mid-seventies and at the beginning of the 80s, Latin American und South European presidents have taken over the big international sports federations. Some examples: Mr Havelange (BR), Fifa. Mr. Samaranch (E), IOC. Mr. Nebiolo (I), Athletics.

The biggest sports federations (Fifa, IOC and Uefa) have turned into billion dollar corporations of the entertainment business since then. Money arouses greed.

Quite often, FIFA’s critics say that to be transparent, Sepp Blatter must reveal his salary. But do you think this is relevant?

It probably is. I can well imagine that the overpaid members of the executive committee don’t want to see their own individual earnings revealed. That’s why they leave their president and his salary in peace.

How revealing is the fact that a number of FIFA’s Executive Committee members have spoken out about making public, Michael Garcia’s report into the process by which the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded?

How do you say in English? Action speaks louder than words. I have quite enough of all this verbiage. They shall make it public, without any further delay.

Russia and Qatar are countries with serious human rights question marks against their names. Azerbaijan is also in that category, yet some matches of the 2020 European championship have been awarded to them. Why are countries with questionable records being awarded major tournaments?

You mention three states that hope to improve their image by associating themselves to the big sports federations. Many other countries are not ready anymore to sign the adhesion contracts of the sports federations.

Let me point out the two examples of Munich (Germany) and St. Moritz (Switzerland). In both places the voters had their say … and they said:  No, we do not want to host the Winter Olympics in the year 2022. Why? They did not want to be part of a corrupt system.

You were an account manager working for FIFA’s former commercial partner, ISL, which went bankrupt 13 years ago. Since then, it’s emerged that bribes were made to members of FIFA’s ExCo in return for influence over tv rights deals which, at the time, weren’t illegal under Swiss law. What are your memories of being involved with ISL?

The bribes were made between 1989 and 2001. ISL paid 142 Million Swiss francs to sports officials. Fifa-President Blatter pretends that only one tenth of this sum went to his Fifa people. He said in a recent interview that all the rest went to officials of other sports.

Mr. Blatter must know, since he is not only the President of Fifa, but a member of the IOC as well.

By the way, 142 Million Swiss francs, that’s not much less than 100 Million pounds.

How aware were you of the bribes that were being paid out?

ISL had hundreds of employees all over the world. Like me, most of them didn’t know that bribes were paid out.

Even the world’s best and most famous investigative journalists could not believe their ears when the bribery-scandal was revealed in court seven years after the bankruptcy of ISL.

It was the same for me – and probably all former ISL-employees, except for the six top-shots who were accused of fraudulent bankruptcy.

Can you give me a sense of the atmosphere at the time?

I hadn’t been working very long for that company. I had started in the year 2000. ISL went bust in 2001.

What about the atmosphere?

What had surprised me most, was the way how ISL had set its priorities. They put more manpower into pampering the sports officials than into satisfying the needs of the sponsors.

This was very unusual and strange for me. I had never seen anything like that before. 

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