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30 June 2010

FIFA World Cup: Aussie Casino Jack Lobby, by Greg Tingle - 30th June 2010

Sporting and political insiders, movers n shakers, have we got a story for you. Think Casino Jack or Casino Jacks (and the United States of Money and The Australians Of Money). Following the Aussie NRL and AFL scandals, FIFA Aussiegate gives them a run for their money. Media Man and Gambling911 follow the money trail, with some assistance from Google News, Fairfax Media and sniffer dogs Bluey and Timmy...

A dynamite due of European lobbyists engaged to assist bringing the World Cup to Australia are in line to receive up to $11.37 million in consultancy fees, bonuses and the like. The sum is roughly 25% of the taxpayer-funded bid, our friends at Fairfax Media have put in the public domain. They point to "secret Football Federation Australia files".

News Limited, publisher of the Daily Telegraph, is understood to be also digging for more information, just as Fairfax and News Limited battled it out on the NRL and AFL sports scandals.

The now (not so secret) files included a spreadsheet that hints the federal government was not advised specifics about how taxpayers' money was to be fed to the lobbyists and grants aka "hand outs" and "hand ups" to overseas football bodies headed by FIFA officials.

A probe into Australia's World Cup bid can also lift the lid on how the FFA:

Purchased Paspaley pearl necklaces for the wives of many of the 24 FIFA executive committee members who in December will decide which countries will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Pearl cufflinks were also given. Total value of the gifts $50,000 approx.

Offered an all-expenses paid junket to the South American FIFA executive committee member Rafael Salguero and his wife to Australia this year.

Paid for a Caribbean football team linked to the FIFA vice-president Jack Warner to journey to Cyprus last year.

A FFA document contains 2 budget balance sheets outlining how the $45.6 million World Cup bid government grant is to be used.

1 balance sheet is for the FFA only and is headed "Bid budget management reporting". The other is for the government and is less detailed and titled "Bid budget government reporting".

The spreadsheets from mid-2009 could possible suggest the FFA decided not to disclose to the government specific details of the payment structure, remuneration breakdown etc for its 2 consultants, Mr Peter Hargitay and Mr Fedor Radmann.

FFA advised its accounting practices were exemplary and independently audited.

"The FFA is completely transparent in its dealings with government and has provided all information regarding the bidding process requested by government," advised the FFA chief executive, Ben Buckley, who also declined invitation to reveal publicly what sirs Hargitay and Mr Radmann were being paid.

We have learned confidential documents show the sporting - political entrepreneurs of sorts, who have been engaged to direct Australia's lobbying of FIFA officialdom - are in line to make $11.37 million if Australia wins the right to host the 2022 World Cup! Not a bad earner. This may at least partly explain that Australia this month withdrew its bid for the 2018 cup.

Punters, you wonder why the government has little money for everyday folks, community projects and the like. "Their eyes may be off the community ball, and focused on another ball and field of green", a Media Man investigator was overheard whispering.

Mr Hargitay is being remunerated with $1.35 million by the FFA and has a "success fee" of $2.54 million. Mr Radmann's hard yakka for the Aussie bid, which the FFA has attempted to keep under wraps, will earn him up to $3.49 mil via a German based consulting firm. He is also entitled to a success fee of $3.99 million.

Forming part of a separate contract - agreement, the FFA is paying Mr Radmann's biz partner Andreas Abold an additional $3 mil for World Cup "bid book production and bid advice". It is unknown at this stage if Abold will also receive some of Mr Radmann's moolah fees.

Fairfax Media reports that the mid-2009 spreadsheet also suggests the government was not advised details about plans to give $6.5 million in taxpayer funds to football bodies in Africa, Asia and Oceania. The document states the FFA's bid strategy will give large grants to "international football development".

The government was advised by the FFA that $11.37 million was going to "consultants/agencies". But the FFA prepared a more detailed spreadsheet for its own executives, specifically outlining how this sum would be split up into fees and bonuses for Hargitay and Radmann's international "advocacy" campaign.

Buckley stated "Consistent with standard management practice, FFA maintains a more comprehensive breakdown of expenditure and forecasts for day-to-day internal management purposes and accountability."

The necklaces and cufflinks were gifted at a dinner get together in 2008 for FIFA officials at the beautiful home of the FFA chairman, Frank Lowy (after Australia had announced its World Cup intentions but before formal bidding had begun).

Buckley advised "It is a widely accepted, common practice, among governments, many business and sporting organisations to provide symbolic gifts, to visiting international delegations."

FIFA allows "occasional gifts" of "symbolic or incidental value". Media Man and the sniffer dogs are curious to learn on what the financial cap is on the "incidental value".

Network Nine's 60 Minutes has now learned more on the FIFA scandal, and is interested to run what would be a follow up story on FIFA, following their couple of previous more good news features on FIFA, the cup, including some players. Digital sports broadcaster OneHD also has interest, while Fox Sports - Premier Media Group, is understood to be not quite as keen. Follow the media relationships ala 'Casino Jack' and who knows who, and you smart ones will join the dots and figure it out... or at least enough to get the 'Casino Jack' references.

It is understood the FFA funded the Trinidad and Tobago under-20 team's travel to Cyprus at the request of Hargitay, who is linked to the Caribbean football chief and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner.

In a number of FFA documents Hargitay refers to his strong ties to "Jack" (not 'Casino Jack'). Warner has been frequently been accused of using FIFA status to enrich himself and his family. After a probe in 2006 FIFA demanded sir lunchalot#2 to repay $US1 mil his family got via the improper sale of World Cup tickets.

Last Red October Warner returned a $435 luxury handbag. It was understood to be one of 24 given to the partners of FIFA executive committee members...from the English bid team, after news media reports in Britain.

FFA documents show it to be evident Radmann and Hargitay are managing the international "strategy" on behalf of the Australian "bid team". They enjoy ties to some of football's most powerful - influential men, including Warner, the former German player Franz Beckenbauer and the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter.

Radmann and Hargitay have interesting history to their names. Radmann, who has worked as an aide to Beckenbauer, has been implicated in:

A scheme circa 2000 to allegedly offer financial inducements to key FIFA executive committee officials to get them to back Germany's bid to host the 2006 World Cup.

Conflict of interest scandals in 2003 that forced him to stand down from Germany's cup organising committee.

It is understood Australian bid officials attempted to minimise any publicity about Radmann's involvement in the said bid.

Hargitay's past includes being acquitted twice for cocaine trafficking in the 90s and his alleged link to a securities fraud in Hungary, according to US court documents circa 97.

Hargitay also has spoken about daily meetings in South Africa with the Asian Football Confederation boss, Mohammad bin Hamman.

Documents detail out Hargitay's role arranging meetings between overseas football officials and Mr Lowy and Australian politicians. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd 007 er Kev 07 met Mr Warner in his Trinidad and Tobago home in November.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Ageing, the agency that provided the World Cup grant, said yesterday that the FFA briefed it regularly on its spending.

Quizzed about differing bid balance sheets, the spokeswoman advised "The detailed internal accounting systems of the FFA are a matter for them."

She said the department was aware of the backgrounds of Hargitay and Radmann. It also had no evidence of any breaches of the public service guidelines that cover the FFA's consultants.

All FFA bid team employees and lobbyists must comply with Australia's Public Service code of conduct and act in an honest and ethical manner. The spokeswoman advised "The FFA has assured the department taskforce that this provision is being adhered to. If evidence contrary to this was provided it would be thoroughly investigated as would any alleged breach of the funding agreement."

Wrap Up...

Readers, what next? What do you know that isn't revelled yet? Tell us in the world famous Gambling911 forums? Hello FIFA, you're welcome also. Media Man and Gambling911 is half expecting threats and hate mail...just another day at the office.

*The writer is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of a bakers dozen of sectors they cover.

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