Vatican Joins Interpol in Shunning Funding from Tainted FIFAChristopher Elser and Juan Pablo Spinetto
FIFA has lost support from the Vatican and Interpol as international organizations seek to distance themselves from fraud investigations at global soccer’s governing body.
Interpol, the international police organization, said Friday it will stop taking funding from FIFA, which four years ago pledged 20 million euros ($22.4 million) over 10 years to stop match-fixing and other corruption. The Vatican suspended an agreement to receive a donation from the Copa America soccer tournament.
“In light of the current context surrounding FIFA, while Interpol is still committed to developing our Integrity in Sport program, I have decided to suspend the agreement,” Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said in a statement. “All external partners, whether public or private, must share the fundamental values and principles of the organization, as well as those of the wider law enforcement community.”
FIFA said it was disappointed by the Interpol move. The soccer body this week suspended the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup and called a special executive committee for July 20 to reform its structure and set a date to elect a president to replace Sepp Blatter.
Blatter said last week he will leave when a new president is elected between December and March. He won a fifth term on May 29, days after U.S. authorities charged some FIFA officials with bribery, racketeering and money laundering. Swiss law enforcement also opened a probe into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
“This successful program is unrelated to the current issues surrounding FIFA and we believe that this unilateral decision will negatively impact the fight against criminal activity,” FIFA said in a statement in response to Interpol’s action. “FIFA remains committed to this important and successful collaboration and will work for its resumption at the earliest opportunity. We are currently reaching out to Interpol to further discuss this matter.”
Interpol is assisting in the effort to search for several executives who are wanted for conspiracy and corruption, including Nicolas Leoz, who once led South America’s Conmebol.
The regional soccer body reached an agreement in April with Scholas Occurrentes, an educational organization created by Pope Francis in 2013 to promote social integration through sports.
Scholas, which stood to get $10,000 per goal and saved penalty shot during this year’s edition of South America’s top soccer competition, said in an e-mailed statement it put the accord on hold. The organization would have earned more than $500,000 from the program in the last tournament.
“Scholas will abstain from receiving any funds until the ongoing judicial investigation comes to a conclusion,” the organization said. “We believe the current investigations are important to protect the integrity of the institutions and soccer.”
Conmebol didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the decision. The pope is from Argentina, which is a 7-4 favorite to win the tournament at U.K.-based William Hill.
One of the FIFA officials charged last month was Chuck Blazer, a former executive with Concacaf, the governing body for the Caribbean, north and central America. He pleaded guilty and the U.S. may contest a judge’s order requiring the disclosure of his plea agreement.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie ruled the agreement should be made public but gave prosecutors until Monday to decide whether they would appeal his decision. If they decide to challenge the ruling, prosecutors don’t have to disclose the agreement unless they lose.
The judge’s order Thursday followed requests for it to be made public from several media organizations including Bloomberg and the New York Times. A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office, Nellin McIntosh, said she couldn’t provide an immediate comment on whether the government will challenge the decision.
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