Sepp Blatter’s lawyer has stressed that the FIFA president is not guilty of any mismanagement after criminal proceedings were opened against him on Friday by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG).
The 79-year-old is suspected of signing a contract with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), then led by former FIFA heavyweight Jack Warner, in 2005 that market experts claim handed World Cup television rights for the 2010 event in South Africa and the 2014 showpiece in Brazil to Warner for a fraction of their value.
He is also accused of making a “disloyal payment” to UEFA president Michel Platini in 2011 relating to work carried out by the Frenchman between 1999 and 2002 when he was a ‘special advisor’ to Blatter.
However, Blatter’s legal representative has denied any wrongdoing.
“Mr Blatter is cooperating and 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 who were routinely responsible for such contracts,” Richard Cullen, a lawyer with McGuireWoods who is representing Blatter, told The New York Times.
“Certainly no mismanagement occurred.”
OAG interrogated Blatter after a meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich on Friday, while also conducting a house search at the governing body’s headquarters with the support of the Federal Criminal Police.
“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),” read a statement from OAG.
“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 two million Swiss francs 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.”