Sepp Blatter’s continuing presidency of world football federation hangs by a thread after the Office of the Swiss Attorney-General instituted criminal proceedings against him.
The decision, revealed in a statement from the office of Michael Lauber threw FIFA into confusion, coming shortly after the close of a two-day meeting of the executive committee and forcing the cancellation, at 10 minutes’ notice, of a news conference Blatter had been scheduled to conduct about the discussions of the day.
Blatter is being investigated over not only the controversial sale of World Cup TV rights to former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner but the fact that he “is suspected of a disloyal payment of 2m Swiss francs to Michel Platini,” the French president of UEFA.
Both Blatter and Platini were questioned immediately after the close of the executive committee at lunchtime. Apart from the criminal case investigation they face the possibility of referrals to the independent ethics committee of FIFA and suspension from their duties pending the outcome of further inquiries.
Last week Blatter’s right-hand man, Jerome Valcke, was put on gardening leave, and also referred to the ethics committee, over allegations of involvement – which he has denied – in a ticketing scam.
The Office of the Attorney General statement said:
“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has opened criminal proceedings against the President of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) on suspicion of criminal mismanagement as well as – alternatively – on suspicion of misappropriation.
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.
On 25 September 2015, 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 (Article 178 of the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure).
Furthermore, the OAG conducted on 25 September 2015 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.
FIFA subsequently issued its own statement of confirmation, saying:
Since 27 May 2015, FIFA has been cooperating 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 cooperation 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 cooperation. We will have no further comment on the matter as it is an active investigation.