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Havelange quits honorary FIFA post

He ruled FIFA for more than two decades but Joao Havelange's era at football's governing body has ended in controversy.

Joao Havelange has resigned his position as honorary FIFA president after the governing body's ethics committee named him as having received bribes.

Havelange, 96, served as FIFA president between 1974 and 1998, before being replaced by Sepp Blatter.

A Swiss prosecutor's report was published last year that stated the Brazilian had received funds in the 1990s from World Cup broadcasting deals. It said Havelange alone had been paid 1.5 million Swiss francs (£1 million), with a potential total of 21.9 million Swiss francs (£14.5 million) paid to FIFA executives by ISL, a Swiss-based marketing agency that collapsed due to debts in 2001.

An ethics committee report released on Tuesday has now announced that Havelange, along with Nicolas Leoz and Ricardo Teixeira, did receive bribes from the company between 1992 and 2000.

Leoz had been president of CONMEBOL before resigning due to health reasons earlier this month. Ricardo Teixeira, Havelange's ex-son-in-law and the former head of Brazil's 2014 World Cup organising committee, also cited health reasons when he resigned in March last year.

Court documents indicate that Leoz accepted at least £80,000 and Teixeira at least £8.4 million. The ethics report by FIFA Adjudicatory Chamber chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert states only that the trio accepted "not inconsiderable" amounts.

It said: "From money that passed through the ISMM/ISL Group, it is certain that not inconsiderable amounts were channelled to former FIFA president Havelange and to his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira as well as to Dr. Nicolas Leoz, whereby there is no indication that any form of service was given in return by them.

"These payments were apparently made via front companies in order to cover up the true recipient and are to be qualified as 'commissions', known today as 'bribes'."

The receipt of 'commissions' did not represent a crime in Switzerland at the time they were paid, but Eckert wrote that Havelange and Teixeira were guilty of ''morally and ethically reproachable conduct".

He added: "It is clear that Havelange and Teixeira, as football officials, should not have accepted any bribe money, and should have had to pay it back since the money was in connection with the exploitation of media rights."

Blatter has been criticised for his "clumsy" handling of the affair.

He had been general secretary at FIFA when he authorised the transfer of 1.5 million Swiss francs to Havelange after ISL had directed the funds to the governing body, rather than its president, in error.

The report read: "It must be questioned ... whether president Blatter knew or should have known over the years before the bankruptcy of ISL that ISL had made payments (bribes) to other FIFA officials."

However, Blatter told the ethics investigation that he "did not suspect the payment was a commission" and he has been cleared of criminal or ethical misconduct.

The report added: "President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules. The conduct of president Blatter may have been clumsy because there could be an internal need for clarification, but this does not lead to any criminal or ethical misconduct."

Blatter issued a statement following the report saying he believed he has introduced a system to prevent any such recurrence in the future.

It read: "I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that 'President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules'.

''I have no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that I proposed, now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue - which has caused untold damage to the reputation of our institution - does not happen again."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report