Havelange, 95, retires from IOC under cloud

Last updated 07:54 05/12/2011

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Joao Havelange has resigned from the IOC, just days before facing suspension from the Olympic body in a decade-old kickback scandal stemming from his days as president of FIFA.

The 95-year-old Havelange - the IOC's longest-serving member with 48 years of service - submitted his resignation in a letter Thursday night, according to a person familiar with the case.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Havelange's decision has been kept confidential.

The move came a few days before the International Olympic Committee's ethics commission was due to recommend heavy sanctions against Havelange in the case involving FIFA's former marketing agency ISL.

Havelange, an IOC member since 1963, has been under investigation by the ethics commission for allegedly receiving a $1 million payment from ISL. Two other IOC members, IAAF President Lamine Diack and African football official Issa Hayatou, are also under investigation but face much lesser penalties.

A two-year suspension, or even possible expulsion, for Havelange was expected to be considered at Thursday's IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. With his resignation, the ethics case against him is expected to be dropped.

Havelange, a former Olympic swimmer and water polo player, served as FIFA president for 24 years before being succeeded by Sepp Blatter in 1998. He remains honorary president of FIFA.

The ethics case stems from a BBC documentary last year into kickbacks allegedly paid by ISL, which owned World Cup television rights and collapsed with debts of $300 million in 2001.

Citing Swiss court documents, the BBC's Panorama program alleged that Havelange took a $1 million payment from ISL. Hayatou and Diack, who were not IOC members at the time of the scandal, were also identified as receiving money.

The ISL case was the subject of a Swiss criminal trial in 2008. FIFA has blocked the court in Zug from revealing which officials repaid $6.1 million in kickbacks. The officials repaid the money on condition that their identities remained anonymous.

Ricardo Teixeira, Havelange's former son-in-law and head of Brazil's 2014 World Cup organizing committee, was also identified by the BBC as having received payments. Teixeira is not an IOC member. Brazilian federal authorities are seeking the Swiss documents to investigate possible money laundering.

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported Saturday that Havelange was "expected" to resign from the IOC before the ethics commission ruling.

Blatter, who is also an IOC member, said in October that FIFA's executive committee would "reopen" the ISL dossier at a Dec. 16-17 meeting in Tokyo as part of a promised drive toward transparency and zero tolerance of corruption.

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Hayatou and Diack face likely warnings or reprimands - not formal suspensions - from the IOC for conflict of interest violations in the ISL affair.

Hayatou, an IOC member since 2001 and Africa's top football official, reportedly received about $20,000 from ISL in 1995. He has denied any corruption and said the money was a gift for his confederation.

Diack said he received money after his house in Senegal burned down in 1993. Diack, who was not an IOC member at the time, has said he did nothing wrong and is confident of being cleared.

The ethics commission will make recommendations to the executive board, which will impose any sanctions.

Havelange is the first member to resign from the Olympic body in an ethics case since former IOC vice president Kim Un-yong of South Korea stepped down in 2005 rather than face expulsion. Kim had been previously suspended in connection with corruption charges in South Korea.

IOC President Jacques Rogge, elected in 2001, has pursued a tough line against any ethics violations.

Ruben Acosta, the former president of the international volleyball federation, resigned from the IOC in 2004, two days before the ethics commission was due to recommend his possible expulsion for alleged misuse of Olympic funds.

Four IOC members resigned in 1999 after being implicated in the Salt Lake City bid scandal. Six others were expelled for accepting cash, gifts, scholarships and other improper benefits during Salt Lake's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

Bulgarian member Ivan Slavkov was expelled in 2005 for alleged Olympic corruption. Indonesia's Mohamad "Bob" Hasan, who was jailed in a scam involving a forest-mapping project in the 1990s, was kicked out in 2004.

Since the Salt Lake scandal, the IOC enacted a series of reforms, including establishment of the ethics commission, tighter anti-corruption rules and a ban on member visits to bid cities.

- AP

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