The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has opened criminal proceedings against FIFA president Sepp Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation.
Blatter 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 market value.
He is also accused of making a “disloyal payment” to UEFA president Michel Platini in 2011 relating to work carried out by Platini between 1999 and 2002 when the Frenchman was a ‘special advisor’ to Blatter.
OAG interrogated 79-year-old Blatter after a meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich on Friday, while also conducting a house search at FIFA 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 an official 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 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, meanwhile, has stressed that it has cooperated with the OAG and will continue to do so throughout the investigation.
“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,” an official statement reads.
“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.”
The announcement comes just hours after Blatter cancelled a scheduled press conference at the end of the ExCo meeting in Zurich.
The 79-year-old Swiss was re-elected as FIFA president in May against the backdrop of nine past and present officials being indicted for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption under an investigation by US and Swiss authorities but then announced his decision to stand down.