Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, Faces Criminal Investigation in Switzerland

SEPT. 25, 2015

ZURICH — Sepp Blatter, the longtime president of FIFA, spent much of Friday underground. Starting at 9 a.m., Mr. Blatter and a few dozen other top executives were ensconced in an isolated conference room three levels below ground at FIFA’s headquarters here, discussing pressing issues like budgets, governance reforms and the scheduling of World Cup tournaments. All seemed normal and routine.

When Mr. Blatter surfaced in the early afternoon, however, he was stunned to find a group of officials from the office of Switzerland’s attorney general waiting for him. Over the next few hours, the officials interrogated Mr. Blatter at length. They searched his office, situated five floors above the bunker, on the top floor of the headquarters, and took boxes of documents, then informed Mr. Blatter that he was under criminal investigation.

The investigation centers on “suspicion of criminal mismanagement and suspicion of misappropriation” of funds, according to a statement released by the Swiss authorities, and it has now directly connected Mr. Blatter, world soccer’s top official, to a corruption scandal at the highest level of the sport.

Swiss officials said Friday that they were specifically looking into Mr. Blatter’s suspected approval of a curiously small contract for World Cup television rights and a surprisingly large payment to another top FIFA official. That official, Michel Platini, is the head of European soccer’s governing body and a leading candidate to succeed Mr. Blatter as FIFA president next year.

Under Swiss statutes, both criminal mismanagement and misappropriation can be punished with jail time.

(More here.)


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