FIFA files criminal complaint against Blatter over loss-making museum

The museum has been running at a loss since opening, FIFA says. © Keystone / Ennio Leanza

Football’s world governing body, FIFA, has issued a lawsuit against Joseph “Sepp” Blatter alleging criminal mismanagement of funds. The complaint accuses the disgraced former president of wasting CHF500 million ($564 million) on a football museum.

This content was published on December 22, 2020 - 11:49

FIFA said on Tuesday it had filed the criminal complaint with the Zurich cantonal authorities aimed at “former management and companies appointed by them”. This includes Blatter, who spearheaded the museum project as “a meeting place for [football’s] millions of fans”, in his own words.

The governing body of world football claims that the Zurich-based World Football Museum, opened in 2016, has resulted in huge financial expense that would have better been spent on developing football elsewhere.

The museum cost $140 million to refurbish a building in downtown Zurich and a $360 million rental agreement with building owner Swiss Life through 2045.

A FIFA press release on Tuesday said that these were “unfavourable terms when compared to standard market rates”, and that the entire project amounted to “half a billion Swiss Francs that could and should have been channelled into the development of global football”.

An external audit mandated by the organisation found a range of “suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature”, FIFA Deputy Secretary General Alasdair Bell said.

Blatter thus risks prosecution at the local level in Zurich, which would add to an investigation underway at the Swiss level around a suspicious 2012 payment to former UEFA president Michel Platini. Both Blatter and Platini have denied those charges.

Blatter, who is currently serving a ban from participating in FIFA activities, was president of the body until 2015. His lawyer, Lorenz Erni, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the latest accusations are “baseless and are vehemently repudiated”.

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