Swiss prosecutors open criminal investigation against Sepp Blatter
Blatter's lawyer says "no mismanagement occurred"
FIFA says it is cooperating with investigation
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.”
A statement released by the office of the attorney general of Switzerland confirmed it was examining a contract signed by Blatter with the Caribbean Football Union and an alleged “disloyal payment” of 2 million Swiss francs (about $2 million US) to Michel Platini, the head of European football body UEFA.
Former senior FIFA official Jack Warner was indicted in a wide-ranging bribery scandal, while Platini entered the race to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in July.
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.
Blatter’s lawyer. Richard Cullen, said that “no mismanagement occurred.”
In a statement sent to CNN, Cullen said: “We’re 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.”
The attorney general’s office confirmed that it had conducted a search at FIFA headquarters – including Blatter’s office – with the help of the police and there was “data seized.”
“The (Swiss attorney general’s office) 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,” said the statement, referring to Blatter by his given name.
“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 two million Swiss Francs to Michel Platini, President of Union of European Football Association (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,” added the statement.
UEFA was not immediately available for comment after the attorney general’s office said that Platini had been “heard as a person asked to provide information,” while one of Warner’s officials told CNN “he wouldn’t be saying anything.”
Platini, who became president of UEFA in 2007, is also a vice president of FIFA.
The 60-year-old became a member of FIFA’s executive committee in 2002 as well as chairman of the technical development committee and worked on the 2006 World Cup organizing committee.
Platini said he was cooperating with authorities and denied any wrongdoing in a statement obtained by CNN.
“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,” the statement said.
In a statement, FIFA said it had been “cooperating” and has “complied with all requests for documents, date and other information.”
It added: “We will continue this level of cooperation throughout the investigation. We will have no further comment on the matter as it is an active investigation.”
The incident comes eight days after Secretary General Jerome Valcke was suspended by FIFA, while the organization investigates allegations he participated in a scheme to profit off the sale of World Cup tickets on the black market.
Valcke has been relieved of his duties until further notice.