MOSCOW, October 22. /TASS/. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also a member of the international football federation’s executive, has dismissed as sheer nonsense the row in some foreign mass media over alleged luxury presents some top FIFA functionaries received from the Brazilian Football Confederation.
As soon as the 2014 Football Cup was over, the Brazilian Football Confederation presented all top football officials with luxury wrist watches. As British mass media claim the VIP timepieces, each worth more than $20,000, were given as memorable gifts to 65-70 people — members of the FIFA executive and heads of the national federations whose national squads made their appearance at the 2014 World Cup finals.
“I have received no watches from the Brazilians. I have a clean conscience,” Mutko said. “The one I wear I got from my kids for my 40th birthday. I believe that the scandal foreign journalists have fanned over these presents is absolute nonsense. The Brazilian Confederation gave those gifts to the FIFA functionaries from the heart. As I was told afterwards, many members of the Executive and heads of national federations had had no idea of what was in those gift packages. Next to their seats they found small bags, with a baseball cap and a T-shirt on top and some box at the bottom. Nobody even cared to take a look. The value of those watches is blown out of proportion: media rumors say they are worth $25,000, while the Brazilians say they cost $7,000-8,000."
Mutko said the scandal had touched all of his colleagues on a sore place. “All these technical issues should be kept within the family and never leaked to the press,” Mutko said. “FIFA Executive members are very much insulted. All of them are quite respectable people. They are prepared to give the watches back. Why did the British press start all that? It was declared worldwide that October 24 is the deadline the Ethics Committee set for handing in the gifts. Half of the people had long given everything back. Everybody would have handed in the presents by now, had they been told calmly by telephone that the gift is a violation of the rules and could not be accepted. But somebody in the media looks eager to bolster one’s ratings with these leaks of information which is for office use only.”
UEFA President Michel Platini was one of those who gave back the gift in public. He did so on advice from the Ethics Commission, which ruled that any present worth more than $26,000 could not be considered as a token gift. At first Platini wished to keep the watch but donate its cash equivalent to a charity fund.