The Swiss attorney general’s office announced Friday it is opening a criminal investigation into outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of FIFA funds.
In a news release, the attorney general’s office said its investigators interrogated Blatter on Friday following a meeting of FIFA’s executive committee. Investigators also conducted a search of Blatter’s office at FIFA headquarters in Zurich and seized data.
The investigation is focused on two transactions:
— A 2005 contract with the Caribbean Football Union that was “unfavorable for FIFA” and one in which Blatter allegedly “violated his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of FIFA.” Jack Warner, the head of the Caribbean Football Union at the time and a longtime Blatter supporter, was one of a number of FIFA officials to be indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year. He is currently fighting extradition from his native Trinidad.
“That is believed to relate to the television contract unearthed by Swiss broadcasters that showed Blatter had agreed to sell TV rights to the disgraced former Fifa heavyweight Jack Warner at below the market rate,” the Guardian writes.
As reported by the Mirror earlier this month, a Swiss television network has published a contract signed by Blatter that awarded the television rights to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil to the Caribbean Football Union for $600,000, well below their market rates. Warner then sub-licensed those rights to his own Cayman Islands-registered company, J & D International, at a profit of $11 million.
“FIFA’s deal with the CFU included an agreement for a 50 per cent share of any profits from sub-contracting the rights but few if any payments from profit share were ever made by Warner and in July 2011, a month after he resigned from FIFA following bribery allegations, FIFA terminated its contract with the CFU,” the Mirror writes.
— “A disloyal payment” of just more than $2 million made to UEFA President Michel Platini for work performed between January 1999 and June 2002. They payment was made in February 2011.
Platini, who once was a close ally of Blatter but has since become one of his fiercest critics, is the front-runner to replace Blatter in a special election to be held in February. In the wake of a American and Swiss investigations into FIFA corruption, Blatter announced in June that he would step down as FIFA president once the election took place.
Swiss investigators also interviewed Platini on Friday.
Blatter was scheduled to speak with reporters following Friday’s executive committee meeting in Zurich, but it was first delayed and then abruptly canceled without explanation.
In a statement released Friday, FIFA said it “has complied with all requests for documents, data and other information.”
Richard Cullen, Sepp’s U.S.-based attorney also released a statement on Friday:
“Mr. Blatter is cooperating and we are 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, and certainly no mismanagement occurred.”
The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting its own investigation into corruption at FIFA. In comments made last month, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she anticipates “being able to bring additional charges against individuals and entities” related to the investigation into a $150 million bribery and racketeering conspiracy.