Football: FIFA President Sepp Blatter was placed under criminal investigation by Swiss authorities overnight

September 26, 2015 7:24 am


President is set to be investigated by Swiss police over
possible money laundering in the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests
won by Russia and Qatar.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was placed under criminal investigation
by Swiss authorities overnight (NZT) as a probe into corruption
reached the highest levels and left his grip on the top job in peril.
Swiss attorney general’s office opened proceedings against Blatter for
possible criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of FIFA money.
Authorities also searched Blatter’s office and seized data.
announcements came as FIFA wrapped up a two-day executive committee
meeting and marked another stunning day of turmoil for the governing
body and Blatter, who have been targeted by American and Swiss
investigations into corruption.
The 79-year-old Blatter is set to
step down in February as a result of those probes, but the opening of
formal proceedings against him could lead the FIFA ethics committee to
provisionally suspend him from duty.

Blatter’s U.S.-based lawyer, Richard Cullen, said in a
statement his client was cooperating and that “certainly no
mismanagement occurred.”
The latest allegations also threaten
UEFA President Michel Platini, Blatter’s onetime protege and favorite to
succeed him in February’s election. Platini was questioned as a witness
Saturday about taking a “disloyal payment” of 2 million Swiss francs
(now $US2.04 million) of FIFA money in February 2011. At the time,
Platini was already tipped as a future FIFA leader but decided not to
run against Blatter in that year’s presidential election – instead
backing the incumbent against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Blatter was
re-elected in May 2011 after Bin Hammam withdrew amid bribery
According to Switzerland’s attorney general, the
money was supposedly paid nine years later for Platini’s work as
Blatter’s football adviser at FIFA from 1999-2002.
Under Swiss law, a payment is classified disloyal if it is against the best interest of the employer – in this case FIFA.
American probe rocked FIFA on May 27, when senior officials suspected
of bribery and racketeering were arrested in dawn raids at a luxury
Zurich hotel two days before Blatter’s re-election.
Blatter is a
stated target of that case but has always denied being corrupt, blaming
individuals who are outside of FIFA’s control
But the Swiss
allegations suggest authorities suspect Blatter of criminal
mismanagement of FIFA money to shore up his own power base – political
enrichment, if not taking money himself.
Blatter had been set to
hold a conference for international media after the executive
committee meeting, but it was first postponed and then suddenly
FIFA later issued a statement saying the Swiss attorney
general “conducted interviews and gathered documents pursuant to its
investigation,” adding that it was co-operating the probe but would not
make further comments.
Blatter is the first person to be formally
quizzed as a suspect in the Swiss case, which FIFA instigated last
November when it complained about possible money laundering in the
2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests won by Russia and Qatar.
right-hand man, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, was suspended
last week after being implicated in a scheme to sell tickets for the
2014 World Cup on the black market.
Friday’s allegations also
relate to undervalued World Cup broadcasting contracts for the Caribbean
that Blatter agreed to with disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack
Warner in 2005.
“There is as suspicion that, in the
implementation of this agreement, Joseph Blatter also violated his
fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of FIFA,” the Swiss
federal office said.
Warner, who was a longtime FIFA power broker supporting Blatter at elections, was indicted in the wide-ranging U.S. case in May.
are confident that when the Swiss authorities have a chance to review
the documents and the evidence they will see that the contract was
properly prepared and negotiated by the appropriate staff members of
FIFA who were routinely responsible for such contracts, and certainly no
mismanagement occurred,” Blatter’s lawyer Cullen wrote.
The statement appeared to focus only on the Warner contract, and not the payment to Platini.
UEFA declined comment on the day’s events.

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