Football

Blatter faces criminal charges for possible corruption

Fifa boss suspected of criminal mismanagement over TV rights deal signed in 2005

Swiss prosecutors have opened criminal proceedings against Fifa president Sepp Blatter on a day of stunning developments at football's world governing body.

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) issued a statement saying Blatter is suspected of criminal mismanagement or misappropriation over a TV rights deal he signed with former Caribbean football chief Jack Warner in 2005.

He is also suspected of "a disloyal payment" of two million Swiss francs ($3m) to Uefa president Michel Platini - who is the favourite to succeed him - in 2011.

Officers from the OAG interrogated Blatter at Fifa headquarters after a Fifa executive committee meeting yesterday. His office was searched and data seized.

An OAG statement said: "Swiss criminal proceedings against the president of FIFA, Mr Joseph Blatter, have been opened on 24 September 2015 on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and - alternatively - misappropriation.

"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 unfavourable 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 2 million CHF (Swiss francs) to Michel Platini, president of 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."

The statement added: "Representatives of the OAG interrogated the defendant Joseph Blatter following a meeting of the Fifa executive committee. At the same time, Michel Platini was heard as a person asked to provide information.

"Furthermore, the OAG conducted on September 25 a house search at FIFA headquarters with the support of the Federal Criminal Police. The office of the Fifa president has been searched and data seized.

"As for all defendants, the presumption of innocence applies for Mr. Joseph Blatter."

US and Swiss authorities announced in May they were investigating corruption at the highest levels of the world's most popular sport, including in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

DENIAL

Fourteen soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted at that time but, until yesterday, authorities had not pointed the finger at Blatter, the 79-year-old Swiss who has run Fifa since 1998. He has denied wrongdoing.

Fifa said it was cooperating with the investigation. A statement said: "Since 27 May 2015, Fifa has been co-operating with the Office of the Swiss Attorney General (OAG) and has complied with all requests for documents, data and other information.

"We will continue this level of co-operation throughout the investigation. Today, at the Home of Fifa, representatives from the Office of the Swiss Attorney General conducted interviews and gathered documents pursuant to its investigation.

"Fifa facilitated these interviews as part of our ongoing co-operation. We will have no further comment on the matter as it is an active investigation."

Attorney Richard Cullen said that the contract the OAG said Blatter signed in 2005 with the Caribbean Football Union was "properly prepared and negotiated by the appropriate staff members of Fifa".

"Certainly no mismanagement occurred," he said in an e-mailed statement.

Meanwhile, RIA news agency cited Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko as saying yesterday that the criminal investigation into Blatter will not affect plans to hold the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Mutko added that the investigation into Blatter was an expected move.

- Wire Services.

2022 world cup will run from Nov 21 to Dec 18

The controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar will start on Nov 21 and finish on Dec 18, Fifa confirmed yesterday after their executive committee meeting in Zurich.

Fifa had already announced in March that the final would be played on Dec 18 - Qatar's national day - and the start date confirmed yesterday means the tournament will run for 28 days, four days shorter than usual.

The tournament, usually played in June and July, was moved to avoid the effects of the searing desert heat in the Gulf at that time of year.

The decision to award Qatar the hosting of the tournament, taken in 2010, along with that of the 2018 tournament to Russia, has been the subject of a Swiss investigation centred around whether bribes were paid during the bidding process.

Fifa officials have said both countries could be stripped of their hosting rights if clear evidence of misconduct emerges.

- AFP.

fifaSepp BlatterUncategorisedFBIcorruptionOAG