News 27th September 2015

Swiss open criminal proceedings against Blatter

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has opened criminal proceedings against FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on ‘suspicion of criminal mismanagement’ and on ‘suspicion of misappropriation’ (Articles 158 and 138 of the Swiss Criminal Code). The OAG stated that the reason for the new criminal investigation into Blatter was a contract signed with Jack Warner on 12 September 2005, reproduced below. The contract, featuring Blatter’s signature, appears to show that he sold the TV rights to the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups to Warner for US$600,000, alleged to be a fraction of their true value.

‘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.’

FIFA previously denied allegations that the contract had allowed Warner – then FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF President – to make a profit of US$11 million on resale of the rights. ‘On 12 September 2005, FIFA signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union [CFU] regarding TV broadcasting rights’, read an emailed statement. ‘Under the terms of this agreement, FIFA was to receive a fixed licensing fee as well as a 50 per cent share of any profits related to the subcontracting of these rights. The CFU made several breaches to the contract and failed to meet its financial obligations. The obligations concerning the required pre-approval for subcontracting were not met either. For these reasons, FIFA terminated its contract with the CFU on 25 July 2011.”

The OAG said it had ‘interrogated’ Blatter following a meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee, leading to the cancellation of a FIFA press conference designed to update the media on the progress of FIFA’s governance reforms. It has also searched Blatter’s office at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters, and data has been seized.

‘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’, read a 25 September FIFA statement. ‘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’.

The OAG also said that under Article 178 of the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure, it has asked UEFA President Michel Platini to provide information. It is understood that the OAG are interested in why Platini was not paid for work he carried out for FIFA until 2011, nine years after the event. In November 2010, FIFA appointed Russia and Qatar as the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, respectively. Platini recently admitted that he changed his vote to Qatar at the last minute.

‘Today I was asked by the Swiss authorities to provide information relating to the ongoing investigations surrounding FIFA’, read a statement from Platini. ‘I have always been open to supporting the relevant bodies and authorities in their investigative work and therefore cooperated fully. Regarding the payment that was made to me, I wish to state that this amount relates to work which I carried out under a contract with FIFA and I was pleased to have been able to clarify all matters relating to this with the authorities. Today I also made clear to the Swiss authorities that since I live in Switzerland I am available to speak with them any time to clarify any matters relating to the investigations.’

It is understood that the independent FIFA Ethics Committee, funded by FIFA, has opened investigations into both men. Platini is currently standing as a candidate to replace Blatter as FIFA President. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has already confirmed that it has widened the scope of its investigation into FIFA, and that ‘additional charges’ will follow.

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