I have just watched a documentary on the investigation of corruption in FIFA (thanks, Jason, for recommending it) and I have to say that, even seasoned criminal-hater that I am, I was left speechless at the brazenness of the actions of those involved. I won’t rehash all the details – there is an excellent BBC article that summarises who has admitted or been accused of doing what – but a couple of things did make me shake my head in disbelief.
Firstly, the investigative journalist concerned – a very sprightly, determined and engaging chap called Andrew Jennings – did most of his pieces to camera from outside various FIFA meetings. Although he holds a perfectly valid and respectable media pass from the BBC, he has been banned by FIFA from attending their press conferences and other media gatherings, presumably because he has been a thorn in their side for fifteen years now. Indeed, the rather less lovely Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago (former vice-president of FIFA and one-time Minister of National Security of his country) commented that he would like to spit on Jennings because he is garbage, to which Jennings gave his usual response of “Oh dear”. When a journalist is banned from press conferences, it has to make you question the openness and transparency of the host organisation.
And secondly, there was an interesting interview with a charming and urbane South Korean gentleman called Chung Mong-joon, sixth son of the founder of Hyundai. Another former vice-president of FIFA, he was asked by Jennings about a $500,000 donation he had made to victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010 – a very generous gesture, but for some reason he made the payment not directly to the Haitian authorities, but to Jack Warner. Chung’s eyes slid away from Jennings’ face as he explained that it seemed a good idea at the time, and Warner had promised to pass the money on – you will be shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear that the money has inexplicably gone astray. When even the person telling the story cannot believe it, you have to wonder quite how they thought they would get away with it. But get away with it they have, for many years, and once all the charges are laid and all the convictions obtained – as I now feel confident they will be – we have to hope that the FIFA officials concerned were as bad at laundering as they are at lying.