FIFA President Sepp Blatter has lashed out at the Swiss Attorney General’s criminal investigation into his conduct, describing it as an unjustified and “outrageous” intrusion into his life because he says there is no evidence that he did anything wrong.
Blatter told the German weekly magazine Bunte there was no reason why he should step down as head of FIFA before the governing body for world football can hold an election to pick his successor early next year.
"This is just an investigation, not charges," the 79-year-old Blatter was quoted as saying in an interview published on Tuesday. "I will fight until February 26. For myself. For FIFA. I am convinced that evil will come to light and good will prevail."
The Swiss Attorney General announced on September 25, after FIFA’s executive committee meeting in Zurich, that it was investigating Blatter personally on suspicion of “criminal mismanagement” and “misappropriation” of funds.
Swiss prosecutors are looking into a contract signed with a former head of the Caribbean Football Union Jack Warner for World Cup television rights. They also are examining an alleged CHF2 million ($2.05 million) “disloyal payment” by Blatter in 2011 to the head of European football’s governing body UEFA, Michel Platini. Blatter and Platini have both denied any wrongdoing.
More broadly, the Swiss authorities are investigating suspected FIFA irregularities over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. Several FIFA officials have been arrested and the Swiss raided FIFA headquarters in May and September.
Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term in May even though some of his FIFA allies had been indicted just days earlier in a US investigation into bribery and fraud in football. But four days later, he shocked the football world by announcing that he planned to step down. Since then FIFA has been trying to regain the confidence of sceptics by pushing through reforms to its self-governance.
Blatter, who has held the presidency of world football’s governing body since 1998, has told staff at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters that he has done nothing wrong.
But some of FIFA’s sponsors aren’t so sure. Coca-Cola was the first sponsor to demand action, saying on Friday that “for the benefit of the game” he should immediately resign “so that a credible and sustainable reform process can begin in earnest”. McDonald’s also said Blatter’s resignation would be “in the best interest of the game”.
His daughter, Corinne Blatter, told Swiss newspaper Blick that the media was to blame for her father’s troubles, which she described as resulting from “not just envy – it’s hatred”. She had worked as an adviser to her father at FIFA.
“The media ruined his reputation”, she said of her father, who is Swiss, in an interview published online on Sunday. “Why are they picking on him?"
She told Blick that Swiss investigators questioned her father for nearly eight hours on September 25 and feared he would be led away in handcuffs. "I am shocked that he is accused of criminal acts," she added. "My father is not a criminal.”