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16th March 2018
It is understood that the Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee will decide whether to impose a 90-day provisional suspension on FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter tomorrow, following a recommendation made by members of its Investigatory Chamber. For now, Blatter remains as FIFA President and has not heard from the Ethics Committee. ‘President Blatter has not been notified of any action taken by the FIFA Ethics Committee’, read a statement emailed from Blatter’s lawyers. ‘We would expect that the Ethics Committee would want to hear from the President and his counsel, and conduct a thorough review of the evidence, before making any recommendation to take disciplinary action’.
It is understood that the Ethics Committee has recommended the provisional suspension due to a criminal investigation opened by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) at the end of September. ‘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 unfavourable for FIFA’, read a 25 September statement from the OAG. ‘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 million [€1.8 million] 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.’
Platini, who intends to stand for election as FIFA’s new President in February 2016, has also been questioned by the Ethics Committee, but insists he has done nothing wrong. “The fact that this payment was made a few months before the FIFA Presidential elections is irrelevant, since I never had any plans of becoming a candidate”, he told AFP. “As a matter of fact, I was extremely happy to be re-elected as UEFA President at the UEFA congress in Paris in March of 2011.” Critics argue that his decision to seek payment until 2011 represented a poor choice, given the proximity of a FIFA election he was expected to contest and the controversial ‘double appointment’ of Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts, and the allegations of bribery that followed.
The news that Blatter is facing a provisional suspension comes a day after Chung Mong-joon accused the Ethics Committee of operating as Blatter’s “hitman”, which he uses to eliminate rivals and to sabotage his bid to become FIFA’s new President. “With the campaign season starting, even issues that had been closed many years ago, have a way of being revived”, warned South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon. “The fundamental reason why I am being targeted is that I aimed straight at the existing power structure of FIFA. People say that FIFA’s Ethics Committee is Mr Blatter’s hitman. They never hit him but only those who challenge Mr Blatter. From the beginning, it was clear that the Ethics Committee was undertaking this so-called investigation to prevent me from running for president of FIFA.”
Ethics Committee procedures are supposed to remain confidential – which means that further action could follow any provisional suspension of Blatter. ‘The members of the Ethics Committee and the members of the secretariats shall ensure that everything disclosed to them during the course of their duty remains confidential, in particular, facts of the case, contents of the investigations and deliberations and decisions taken as well as private personal data in compliance with the FIFA Data Protection Regulations’, reads Article 36 of the FIFA Code of Ethics). ‘Equally, the members of the Ethics Committee shall not make any declarations related to ongoing proceedings dealt with by the Ethics Committee […] Only the final decisions already notified to the addressees may be made public.’
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter is set to step down on 26 February, when FIFA will elect a new President. As reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative last weekend, he has said that he will not stand for election as the new President, however he has yet to clarify what would happen should no viable candidates present themselves for election. Other than Platini and Mong-joon, the only other strong FIFA Presidential candidate is Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
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