Berlin: Fifa President Sepp Blatter said in a newspaper interview on Sunday he knew nothing about bribes paid by marketing partner ISL to top officials of the ruling football body until after the company collapsed in 2001.
Blatter told Swiss paper SonntagsBlick that one of recipients of the bribes, former Fifa boss Joao Havelange, must be stripped of the Fifa honorary presidency as a result.
Documents released this week in Switzerland said that Havelange, 96, pocketed at least 1.5 million Swiss francs (Dh5.615 million ) in March 1997 from ISL in connection with World Cup contracts.
Fellow Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira, a former Fifa executive committee member and Brazilian football federation (CBF) president, received more than 12 million Swiss francs from 1974-1998.
The documents also suggest that Blatter, in office since 1998 after eight earlier years as general secretary, know of the schemes.
Blatter said he could not be held responsible because the “commission” was not a crime at the time and told SonntagsBlick he was not aware of the schemes until 2001.
“I did not know until later, after the collapse of the ISL agency in 2001,” Blatter said.
“When I say that it is difficult to measure the past by today’s standards, this is a general statement. I neither approve of bribery, nor do I tolerate or justify it. But this is what I am accused of now.
“The Swiss Federal Court has this week proven all those people wrong who for years have accused me of having received bribes. It is on record what I have always said: I have never received any bribes.
“Now the same people are trying to attack me on a second level: Okay, he has not taken any bribes but he must have known of them. No. Once again, only after the collapse of ISL years later.”
Blatter said it was Fifa itself that instigated the matter by filing a claim on suspicion of fraud and embezzlement and that those accusing him now “want me out.”
Blatter confirmed that German football league chief Reinhard Rauball phoned him on Friday and told him to resign.
“It is nothing new that I am told to go. Sometimes the British media make this call, then sometimes the American, then sometimes the German. It is true that Rauball phoned me on Friday and told me to resign. I told him it is not as easy as he thinks it is. After all, I was elected by the (Fifa) congree,” Blatter said.
Blatter, who was re-elected Fifa president for a fourth term until 2015 last year, said he will ask the 2013 congress to strip Havelange of the honorary presidency.
“He must go. He can not remain honorary president after these incidents,” Blatter said. “I will make a motion that the issue is dealt with by the next congress.”