Swiss authorities have begun criminal proceedings against FIFA president Sepp Blatter as part of an investigation into the organization’s corruption crisis.

Blatter is being investigated for “suspicion of criminal mismanagement and suspicion of misappropriation” of funds, Switzerland’s office of the attorney general announced Friday.

The criminal case against Blatter is another key development in a series of investigations that began in May with the arrest of 14 top soccer and marketing officials as they gathered for FIFA’s annual congress.

The Guardian reports:

The Uefa president, Michel Platini – the former European footballer of the year who was once Blatter’s protege but has latterly turned on him and was favourite to replace the Swiss as Fifa president – was also dragged into the web of allegations engulfing the organisation. Investigations centre on a payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.35m) made to Platini in 2011.

Platini, who is lobbying to replace Blatter when he stands down in February, was questioned “as a person asked to provide information” in connection with claims that he received a “disloyal payment” from the Fifa president.

According to the attorney general’s office, the payment was made “at the expense of Fifa” for work allegedly performed between January 1999 and June 2002, when Blatter was in his first term as president and Platini, who helped him to win election, was a paid consultant.

However the payment was not executed, it said, until February 2011. That was three months after Qatar had controversially won the right to host the 2022 World Cup with the help of Platini and three months before Blatter was re-elected unopposed as president.

His victory came only after his only rival, the Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam, was forced to pull out amid bribery claims.

Last night Platini said in a statement: “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.”

The Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, has been pursuing a parallel investigation to the long-running inquiry instigated by the US Department of Justice that has already resulted in 14 people, including nine Fifa officials, being charged over what was alleged to be a $100m “World Cup of fraud”. Initially the Swiss inquiry focused on the process that led to the award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar but its focus has since broadened. It has identified 121 suspicious banking transactions, seized properties in the Swiss Alps thought to have been used for money laundering and is trawling through 11 terabytes of data.

The feeling that the Fifa house of cards is collapsing was compounded last week when Jérôme Valcke, the Fifa secretary general and Blatter’s long-time right-hand man, was suspended by the organisation amid allegations that he had profited from the sale of black market tickets. Valcke denies the allegations.

Blatter, forced in May to promise to stand down following a dramatic wave of dawn arrests in Zurich, had been due to host a press conference when representatives of the Swiss attorney general’s office arrived at the end of an executive committee meeting described by one present as “routine”.

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis


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