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Monday, December 5, 2011
Joao Havelange resigns from IOC

Associated Press

GENEVA -- After nearly a half century in the Olympics, former FIFA president Joao Havelange has left the IOC under a cloud of corruption allegations.

The 95-year-old Brazilian's resignation from the IOC was confirmed by the Olympic body and FIFA on Monday, three days before he faced possible suspension for allegedly taking kickbacks as president of FIFA.

Havelange led the soccer group from 1974-98. He joined the IOC in 1963 and was its longest-standing member. The Associated Press reported the resignation Sunday.

The IOC's executive board was preparing to rule Thursday on claims that Havelange took a $1 million kickback from World Cup marketing deals while FIFA president. FIFA said in a statement to the AP on Monday that the IOC closed its ethics case against Havelange, having "taken note" of the resignation.

Havelange's decision prompted speculation he could resign or lose his status as FIFA's honorary president. However, FIFA said authority over his ceremonial position belonged to soccer's 208 nations and Havelange himself.

Havelange has been under investigation by its ethics commission for allegedly receiving a $1 million payment from former FIFA marketing partner ISL.

A two-year suspension, or even possible expulsion, for Havelange was expected to be considered at Thursday's meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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

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. Two other IOC members, African soccer president Issa Hayatou and IAAF president Lamine Diack, also are under investigation for receiving money but face much lesser penalties.

Citing Swiss court documents, the BBC's "Panorama" program alleged that Havelange took a $1 million payment from ISL in 1997.

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 what was then $6.1 million in kickbacks.

The officials repaid the money on condition that their identities remained anonymous as part of a court settlement announced in June 2010.

Ricardo Teixeira, Havelange's former son-in-law and head of Brazil's 2014 World Cup organizing committee, also was 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.

FIFA has said it would publish a 41-page court document Dec. 17 detailing the settlement as part of Blatter's anti-corruption drive.

On Thursday, Hayatou and Diack face likely warnings or reprimands from the IOC for conflict of interest.

Hayatou, an IOC member since 2001, reportedly received about $20,000 from ISL in 1995. The Cameroon official said the money was a gift for his confederation.

Blatter, also an IOC member, appeared to try to pre-empt the ethics verdict last month, telling a German newspaper the money was "correctly accounted for" in the African body's financial reports.

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