Scandal-plagued FIFA watches sent to charity, to be sold

Thu Nov 26, 2015 8:30am EST
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By John Miller

ZURICH (Reuters) - Soccer world body FIFA, mired in the worst graft scandal in its history, is giving 48 Swiss watches worth up to $25,000 each to a children's soccer charity after a year cajoling officials who received them from Brazilian soccer authorities to give them up.

The watches were left on the hotel beds of football officials including members of FIFA's Executive Committee and representatives of national football associations attending a FIFA Congress in Brazil before the 2014 World Cup.

FIFA, though dogged by corruption accusations for many years, was pitched into crisis in May when police raided a Zurich hotel on the eve of a congress arresting several officials. Fourteen, including two former vice-presidents, have been indicted for corruption in the United States.

FIFA's Ethics Committee, which last year determined the gifts handed out by the Brazilian Football Association violated its ethics rules, said on Thursday it had donated the Parmigiani-brand watches to Germany's streetfootballworld, to be sold to benefit the group's youth programs in Brazil.

Getting the watches back was a struggle, a FIFA spokesman said. Some people pleaded they had given the watches to charity, or to a friend. Others offered to pay cash.

"We did the utmost to receive every single watch. It was hard work," the spokesman said. "We didn't let someone get out with a weak excuse."

Initial reports indicated 65 watches were handed out. Eventually, the Brazilian Football Association said only 57 people confirmed receipt.

Six people said they had lost the timepieces, the FIFA spokesman said, adding three did not arrive for various reasons, cutting the total of returns to 48.   Continued...

The sun is reflected in FIFA's logo in front of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann