Sepp Blatter’s tenure as FIFA president suffered a new blow after the Swiss attorney general opened an investigation targeting him on suspicion of criminal mismanagement, as well as on suspicion of misappropriation of FIFA money.
A statement released by the office of the attorney general of Switzerland, confirmed that a contract signed by Blatter with the Caribbean Football Union and an alleged disloyal payment of $2 million to Michel Platini, the head of European football body UEFA was being examined.
The statement was released after Blatter, who has been in charge of soccer’s world governing body since 1998, was interrogated by the Swiss attorney general’s representatives Friday following a meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich.
The statement reads: “Swiss criminal proceedings against the President of FIFA, Mr. Joseph Blatter, have been opened on 24 September 2015 on suspicion of criminal mismanagement (Article 158 Swiss Criminal Code / SCC) and — alternatively — misappropriation (Article 138 Swiss Criminal Code / SCC).
“On the one hand, the OAG suspects that on 12 September 2005 Mr. Joseph Blatter has signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union (with Jack Warner as the President at this time); this contract was unfavorable for FIFA. On the other hand, 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 and/or FIFA Marketing & TV AG.
“Additionally, Mr. Joseph Blatter is suspected of a disloyal payment of CHF 2 Mio. to Michel Platini, President of Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), at the expense of FIFA, which was allegedly made for work performed between January 1999 and June 2002 ; this payment was executed in February 2011.”
Platini was a personal adviser to Blatter, his former mentor, when he started out in football politics, and is the favourite to succeed Blatter for the 2016 FIFA presidential elections, while Former senior FIFA official Jack Warner has being indicted by U.S officials over a wide range of bribery scandal.
Blatter, through his U.S.-based lawyer, Richard Cullen, has denied he is guilty of any wrongdoing and admits he is ready to cooperate.
“We 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,” Cullen wrote.
UEFA boss, Platini, also released a statement saying he had clarified matters about the payment with the authorities.
“Today I was asked by the Swiss authorities to provide information relating to the ongoing investigations surrounding FIFA.
“I have always been open to supporting the relevant bodies and authorities in their investigative work and therefore cooperated fully.
“Regarding the payment that was made to me, I wish to state that this amount relates to work which I carried out under a contract with FIFA and I was pleased to have been able to clarify all matters relating to this with the authorities.
“Today I also made clear to the Swiss authorities that since I live in Switzerland I am available to speak with them any time to clarify any matters relating to the investigations.”
Blatter is the first person to be formally interrogated as a suspect in the Swiss case, which FIFA instigated last November, when it complained about possible money laundering in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests won by Russia and Qatar.
The incident comes eight days after Secretary General Jerome Valcke was suspended by FIFA, while the organization investigates allegations that he participated in a scheme to make profit off the sale of World Cup tickets on the black market.
Valcke has been relieved of his duties until further notice.