Brazil launches 2014 World Cup enquiry as South Africa looks the other way

Reports over the weekend confirmed that the South African Football Association paid FIFA $10 million (R120m) but President Danny Jordaan insists it was not a bribe. While local authorities look in the other direction, Brazil is taking a different stance. The country has officially launched a probe into the hosting of the 2014 World Cup after U.S. officials arrested the former president of the country’s football confederation, Jose Maria Marin. – SL

By Joe Leahy – São Paulo, Source: Newspaper

Brazil's President Rousseff shakes hands with FIFA President Blatter after delivering a statement at the FIFA headquarters in ZurichBrazil’s upper house has voted to launch a congressional inquiry into corruption allegations relating to the country’s football confederation and its hosting of the 2014 World Cup.

The move comes as Brazil’s federal police are launching a parallel investigation into charges brought by the US against officials of Fifa, football’s global body, who include a former president of the confederation, José Maria Marin.

“With the passage of the days, numerous scandals involving the realisation of football championships in [the Americas] will be revealed,” tweeted Romário, the popular former Brazilian World Cup star who is now a senator and the main protagonist behind the inquiry.

The senate and police inquiries reflect the widening global fallout from the indictment by the US justice department last week of 14 men, three of them Brazilians, on corruption-related charges involving Fifa tournaments.

In the UK, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays banks – all named in the US indictments as channels for allegedly corrupt payments to Fifa – were reported to have begun internal reviews to look at the transactions. Barclays and HSBC did not comment, while Standard Chartered said it was looking at two payments mentioned in the indictments.

Brazil’s Senate inquiry will mark the first attempt to probe the hosting of the 2014 Fifa World Cup and its dress rehearsal event, the 2013 Fifa Confederations Cup, and will help create political support for the parallel police inquiries.

Any findings of corruption in Brazil’s staging of the World Cup could prove politically explosive for the ruling ­coalition, led by the Workers Party, or PT, whose former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva championed the country’s winning bid for the event. The public expense of hosting the tournament­ ­generated mass protests in 2013.

Successive leaders of Brazil’s football federation, the CBF, have been accused of corruption but charges have rarely been made to stick. However, Mr Marin was one of seven Fifa officials -among those gathered in Zurich to elect a president – to be arrested by Swiss police for possible extradition to the US.

Romário, in a speech to the Senate, said the US Fifa investigation had ­created a chance to crack open the underworld of domestic football.

“Marin is under arrest and this is an opportune moment for us to conduct a sweeping inquest into the CBF,” he said.

The launch of the Senate inquiry also follows a police raid last week on an office in Rio de Janeiro of Klefer, a sports marketing company, that was carried out at the request of US investigators.

While Klefer is not named in the indictments, it is a business associate of Traffic Group, controlled by Brazilian businessman José Hawilla, a key witness in the US Fifa investigation.

Mr Hawilla has already pleaded guilty in the case. Traffic allegedly paid ­millions of dollars in bribes to gain access to TV and other rights for tournaments throughout Latin America.

Traffic Group and Klefer, controlled by Brazilian businessman Kléber Leite, shared rights to the Copa do Brasil.

Mr Leite, who has not been named or accused, denies any wrongdoing.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015

(c) 2015 The Financial Times Limited

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