Was Tomaž Vesel ineligible as chairperson of the Audit & Compliance Committee?

In July FIFA appointed a new independent chairperson of the Audit & Compliance committee – Tomaž Vesel from Slovenia. Josimar are in possession of documents that proves Vesel was ineligible for this position.

By Pål Ødegård, Håvard Melnæs and Andreas Selliaas

FIFAs Governance regulations article 5.1 clearly states that any “chairman or deputy chairman of its independent committees cannot have hold any official function at a national or confederation level, including the four years previous to initial term”.

Josimar checked with Ludovic Deléchat at FIFAs legal division.

Josimar:  “Is it correct as it says in the Governance regulations article 5.1 that a chairman and deputy chairman of the Audit & Compliance committee cannot have been a committee member within the four years before chairing an independent FIFA committee?”

Deléchat: “Yes, that’s correct.”

Josimar: “Are there any exeptions to this rule?”

Deléchat: “None whatsoever.”

Josimar can reveal that the new chairman of the Audit & Compliance Committee, Tomaž Vesel, has held an official role at the Slovenian FA (NZS) from 2011 and until recently this year. From 2011 until 2014 he was a member of the Youth Committee, and in 2014 he became deputy chairman of the same committee at NZS. The latter function he held until he was appointed as the new chairman of FIFA’s Audit & Compliance Committee.

Key position
The chairman of the Audit & Compliance Committee at FIFA is a key position as it makes sure no one at FIFA can do as they like without being under scrutiny. The position is also key to make sure that the reform process approved by the FIFA congress gets realized.

Tomaž Vesel’s predecessor in the Audit & Compliance Committee was the Swiss-Italian Domenico Scala, a person with whom the FIFA president Gianni Infantino and his strategic director Kjetil Siem had a very difficult relationship.

During the FIFA Congress in Mexico, where Infantino at the last hour managed to convince the Congress to pass a motion that he could hire and fire chairmen and deputies in the independent committees as he pleased. In reality, the independence of the independent committees was put on hold for a year.

The Congress passed the bill, even if most delegates didn’t know about the proposal until right up to the voting. Afterwards, some delegates even admitted they weren’t quite sure what they voted for. This infuriated Domenico Scala, the powerful leader of the Audit & Compliance Committee, who called it a coup d’etat, and resigned from his position with immediate effect. Among Scala’s responsibilities was to negotiate Infantino’s salary, and assess whether Infantino’s generous grant promises during his FIFA Presidential Election campaign could be carried through.

The recording
In June this year German and Swiss newspapers published soundbites from a meeting FIFA’s Executive Committee held in Mexico. Here one can hear Gianni Infantino putting all his prestige behind persuading the other member to get rid of Domenico Scala. Infantino was ‘insulted’ because he had been offered just 2 million Swiss Francs as yearly salary. He wanted to buy an expensive house in Zurich, he told the others, and joked that he now had to borrow money from them in order to afford it. The salary demands and pressure from Infantino made Domenico Scala report the FIFA President to the organization’s Ethics Committee. In addition to the leaked soundbites, an email sent from Infantino to the chairman of FIFA’s Legal Committee, Marco Villiger was leaked to the media, with orders to delete the sound-recording from the above-mentioned Exco meeting. The question was if this was a breach of FIFA’s regulations, which states that such a meeting must be sound-recorded and archived.

Čeferin’s team mate
On 6 July FIFA published a statement which announced Tomaž Vesel as the new chairman of the Audit & Compliance Committee. According to FIFA’s media department it was the temporary chairperson of the Audit & Compliance Committee, South African Sindi Mabaso-Koyana, who had suggested the Slovenian to replace her.

“This is a key position in the organization, and Mr Vesel’s expertise as chief auditor of Slovenia and his international experience will assure stakeholders and restore trust in FIFA”, Infantino commented to the appointment of Vesel.

“I promise to assure FIFA will operate in accordance to international standards, and continue down the path to good governance as it’s stipulated in the reforms», Vesel said upon his appointment.

On 31 August FIFA announced in a statement that Gianni Infantino had accepted a annual salary of 1.5 million Swiss Francs, with no bonuses, but with some additional benefits, until the Congress next year. In other words, he gladly accepted a worse deal than the one he found so insulting just three months earlier. The salary had been set by Tomaž Vesel at the Compensation Sub-Committee, which is part of the Audit & Compliance Committee. A statement from the committee said “several factors were taken into account, including expert advice from two independent consultants”.

As Josimar have reported earlier, several sources say that Gianni Infantino actively supported the newly elected Aleksander Čeferin during his campaign through his strategic advisor Kjetil Siem. We have also reported how Čeferin and Tomaž Vesel have known each other for a long time, including playing football together on the same amateur team, a fact both have confirmed to Josimar.

In Copenhagen Josimar asked whether Čeferin had anything to do with Vesel being appointed as the chairman of the Audit & Compliance Committee.

“I was approached by someone from FIFA. I said [Vesel] was more than competent. If he could audit Slovenia, he could audit FIFA just as well. That was it. People see one Slovenian, and when they see another, everyone gets excited. But it should be about whether that person is competent or not, and not his nationality”, Čeferin answered.

FIFA’s silence
Josimar submitted three questions to Tomaž Vesel today:
Were you a member of the Youth Committee of the Slovenian FA from 2011 to 2016?
If so, did you tell FIFA about this?
Did you fill out a declaration form (where this must be declared) when FIFA hired you?

The chairman of FIFA’s Audit & Compliance Committee answered like this:
I have reported that fact to the Review Committee of course in the process of eligibility check and that was strictly advisory role – kind regards Tomaž Vesel
In addition Josimar have asked several questions to FIFA’s Media department. We are still awaiting a reply.

Philippe Auclair and Cem Argun contributed to this article.

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