News 14th April 2020

Swiss prosecutor’s office drops part of its criminal case against Blatter

The Swiss federal prosecutor’s office (Bundesanwaltschaft) has dropped part of its criminal case against Joesph Blatter, former President of the international federation of football associations (FIFA). ‘We confirm that the federal prosecutor’s office has informed the parties that it considers the criminal investigation in the partial factual and reproach area regarding the contractual relationship with the CFU [Caribbean Football Union] to be complete and ready for conclusion, and we intend to terminate the proceedings’, read an emailed statement. 

The statement added that the second part of its 2015 charge, relating to a CHF2 million (€1.9 million) ‘improper payment’ made to Michel Platini, former President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), remains open. The payment was for consultancy work carried out by Platini for FIFA between 1998 and 2002, but was not made until 2011.

The date is highly significant. The payment closely followed FIFA’s decision to appoint Russia and Qatar as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups. Platini has admitted that he changed his vote to Qatar at the last minute. It was also a FIFA Presidential election year, and Platini was widely expected to stand against Blatter.

Both Blatter and Platini have denied any wrongdoing over the CHF2 million payment. Platini has argued that FIFA couldn’t afford to pay him until 2011, however analysis by The Sports Integrity Initiative found that FIFA’s net income grew in the years that followed his consultancy work.

Platini and former FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter were originally banned for eight years by the FIFA Ethics Committee over the payment, however the FIFA Appeals Committee later reduced that ban to six years, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) later reduced Platini’s ban to four years.

Platini’s decision not to seek payment until 2011, a year in which FIFA reported relatively small profits, may just be coincidental. However, critics argue that his decision to seek payment at that time 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.

The Bundesanwaltschaft’s statement did not fully detail why it had dropped its charge against Blatter regarding a 12 September 2005 contract with the CFU. The contact (PDF below), signed by Blatter, appears to show that FIFA sold the TV rights to the South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 World Cups to Jack Warner for US$600,000 – alleged to be a fraction of their true value. Warner was FIFA Vice President at the time, and also President of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).

In a September 2015 statement, FIFA denied that the contract was designed to allow Warner to make a profit of $11 million on resale of the rights. It argued that it had terminated the contract with Warner after the CFU failed to meet its obligations. 

‘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’, read the statement. ‘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.’

A superseding indictment, unsealed in the US last week, alleges that Warner received $5 million in bribes in exchange for votes to appoint Russia as hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It also alleges that he channelled $5 million of a $10 million bribe to secure votes for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup, disguised as a ‘diaspora’ payment, into accounts he owned. It also alleges that he engineered for CFU officials to receive $40,000 in envelopes in exchange for supporting Mohammed bin Hammam in the 2011 FIFA Presidential elections.

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