FIFA is the EU on turf. The indignation being expressed by Outraged of Brussels over the idiosyncratic practices of the newly resigned Sepp Blatter and his merry men is a classic exercise in hypocrisy by the European elites. It is as if the Feds had arrested Al Capone’s gardener for breaching a hosepipe ban while his employer tutt-tutted in disapproval.
What is the total sum so far implicated in FIFA bribery and corruption charges? Not much more than $150m – over 24 years. That would not cover Eurocrats’ restaurant and bar bills over the same period. No respectable EU trougher would get out of bed for the kind of sums those figures represent, reduced to the level of individual shares. The EU attack on FIFA is not just an exercise in self-preservation, it also reflects the contempt of big-hitting professionals for small-time amateurs.
By all means feel the collars of FIFA officials, put them on trial and, if found guilty, throw away the key. But take the elementary precaution of stepping up production of sick bags as EU officials indulge in self-righteous denunciation of corruption. The FIFA decision to hold the World Cup tournament in the hospitable climate of Qatar is no more extravagant than the daily aberrations of the European Union and the corrupt governments of its member states.
Last year the EU Commission – you have to admire its chutzpah – published a report into corruption within the EU. Presenting its findings, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem described the scale of corruption across the EU as “breathtaking”. The report estimated it as amounting, at a minimal estimate, to £100bn a year, but almost certainly more.
But that, of course, is an underestimate. In reality, this seemingly explosive, no-holds- barred investigation actually amounted to a cover-up. For there was originally an extra chapter in the report that was suppressed by the EU authorities: the section that dealt with corruption within the EU’s own institutions. That is the red meat in any investigation into the dripping roast on the EU gravy train.
It is within the EU’s proliferating organisms that the professional fat cats have made their downy nests of corruption and their privacy will be perpetually protected unless and until the helots rise up with pitchforks and storm the chrome and glass Bastilles in Brussels and Strasbourg.
That is not to minimise the impressive capacity of national governments within the EU to rob their taxpayers blind. In Italy, for example, €1.85bn is spent annually on 72,000 official cars. In Spain, a country whose finances are not notably healthy, a local politician secured the construction of an airport to serve a village of 700 inhabitants at a cost of €155m, then spent an additional €300,000 of taxpayers’ money on erecting a statue of himself at the entrance to an airport that has never seen traffic.
Statues seem to bring out the worst in our “public servants”. In Italy €70,000 was spent on restoring the penis to the statue of Mars at the entrance to Silvio Berlusconi’s official residence. Admittedly, a god of War who looked as if Mrs Bobbitt had done a number on him arguably lacked credibility, while that particular masculine icon has always been at the heart of Berlusconi’s personal philosophy; but, I mean to say – 70,000 smackeroos? Whom did they give the job to – Michelangelo? Against that European background of demented squandermania, our own expenses thieves in the Palace of Westminster look pretty small beer – FIFA rather than the EU.
It is the monolithic corruption of the EU and its institutions that most requires to be exposed and punished. For 20 years the EU’s Court of Auditors has refused to sign off its accounts. This irritation for Eurocrats dates back to 2002 when the EU was compelled to employ professional auditors. Previously, its auditors had included an engineer and a dentist. Even a chap running a miniscule mail order firm from his garage could not expect to get away with such an arrangement, but that is how the countless billions thrown into the yawning maw of Brussels by hardworking taxpayers were accounted for.
In 2012 the Court of Auditors detected that £89bn of EU spending it examined was “affected by material error”. The following year, angered by another unfavourable (i.e. honest) audit, EU president Herman Van Rompuy told the auditors “the court might want to give some further thought as to how it can encourage more nuanced reporting”. Sepp Blatter, the former “president “of everybody”, could not have phrased it better. The acknowledged scale of EU misspending is almost 5 per cent of its budget. We may be confident that, if all the books were transparently open, the true scale would be considerably higher.
Considering that the EU budget is currently €142.6bn, we may also be confident more than €7bn is being spent “inappropriately”, with no attempt whatsoever at reform. We need to get out of this thieves’ kitchen at the earliest opportunity. That will come before the end of 2017, if the British people have the wit to see where their interests lie.