As Brazil struggles to modernize stadiums and airports in time for the FIFA 2014 World Cup federal justice officials are investigating Ricardo Teixeira, leader of Brazil's 2014 World Cup Organizing Committee and boss of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) in connection with misappropriating $5 million in funds from a FIFA event.
Investigation of the oft-embattled football czar further complicates efforts by president Dilma Rouseff's coalition government to push an agreement through congress that will finalize technical details between Brazil and FIFA that could speed up the corruption plagued and strike threatened World Cup preparations. Brazil ranks 73rd in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
Five of the eight ministers who have resigned from the Dilma cabinet (chief-of-staff, sports, labor, transportation, cities) rather than face charges for improper activity have directly or indirectly had involvement with World Cup related projects.
When news of the current investigation broke, Teixeira quietly left Brazil on a $10 million Citation CJ4 executive jet operated by the CBF. An investigative reporter for the Brazilian gossip tabloid Lance found him at a getaway pad at the exclusive Delray Polo Club in south Palm Beach county and not talking to journalists.
Teixeira has returned to Brazil and his job as president of the Brazil World Cup Organizing Committee and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) . However, ESPN Brasil reports that the CBF confirm that he will probably resign within the next two weeks. Ironically, other corruption investigations during Teixeira's 22 year reign have brought similar resignation dramas and if he does agree to step aside at the CBF chances are that he will be able to name his own successor who will insure more of the same.
Ricardo Teixeira is the son-in-law of legedary former FIFA president Joao Havelange, who resigned from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last December after half a century of service to avoid facing corruption charges. Havelange was president of FIFA from 1974-98 before stepping aside to allow the election of Sepp Blatter. Teixeira became president of the CBF in 1989, with strong backing from Havelange.
None of this will remove Teixeira from the presidency of the 2014 Brazil World Cup Organizing Committee, which gives him as much power as the president of Brazil when it comes to managing the image of what Brazilians are most passionate about, futebol. And this could create problems for Dilma since her re-election campaign will go off at the same time as the 2014 World Cup and Teixeira is aligned with political parties and military factions who oppose her. If Brazil does not emerge victorious voters will be seeking to blame politicians for the loss at the polls and Brazilians who vote are well aware that Dilma is not a big futebol fan.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, often critical of Brazil's World Cup preparations, was not pleased when Teixeira considered challenging him for the FIFA leadership last year and has released some documents implicating him in FIFA -- related kickback schemes. Blatter has also been heaping praise on his new friend Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who is chairman of the FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup Organizing Committee. Putin has been outspoken about Brazil's World Cup plans and has even announced that he is ready with a "plan B" should efforts in Brazil stall out. The Kremlin leader has helped Russia develop a world-class university that specalizes in turning out sports management and sports marketing graduates who are in demand world-wide.
The stakes are high for FIFA, General secretary Jerome Valcke of France estimates the world governing body of football will net $1.5 billion in profit from the 2014 World Cup, more than double the $631 million BBC report they earned through the 2010 South Africa World Cup.
The latest corruption charges rocked Brazil's futebol world on the eve of Carnival. Brazil's largest daily Folha first reported that authorities believe Teixeira was involved in a scheme to divert funds associated with a 2008 friendly match between Brazil and Portugal to front companies connected to his friends.
Investigators from the policia civil in Brasilia have obtained computer files establishing an online trail in the $5 million scam between a Teixeira front operation and a business identified with his friend Sandro Rosell, a former senior executive of Nike Brazil and the current president of FC Barcelona, the top team in La Liga in Spain which features Argentine star Leo Messi.
The futebol drama unfolds as president Dilma and her close advisers seek to balance the nation's civic religion and number one source of nationalistic pride with more serious matters of state, notably, containing the creeping inflation that could ward off investors and send the world's 6th largest economy heading south.
During a recent conference call in which this writer participated finance minister Guido Mantega expressed confidence that government coordination to control inflation was working. However, rising food prices, transportation costs and rents on homes and apartments are the major reason construction workers on World Cup infrastructure projects are threatening a nationwide strike.
Fighting inflation while maintaining entitlements that help empower millions of Brazilians who can't afford the expensive tickets to a World Cup game carries a steep political cost. Political in-fighting over Dilma's recently announced $30 billion in emergency budget cuts -- including key high tech and science programs -- leave her with little political capital to get World Cup preparations on the fast track. Former president Lula, who is a big futebol fan and has close ties to the leadership of Sao Paulo side Corinthians has maintained a tenuous modus vivendi with Teixeira, but he is on a limited schedule due to his chemotherapy treatments.
Ultimately, the cost of getting the World Cup preparations done on time will be paid by the Brazilian people since the Dilma government has already agreed to use public funds to cover the tab, with the final amount embargoed from citizens and media under official government seal.