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FIFA general-secretary demands corruption investigation

Zen-Ruffinen (right) and Blatter aren't seeing eye to eye

(Keystone)

The Swiss general-secretary of FIFA, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, has called for a criminal investigation into possible corruption within soccer's governing body.

The number two international soccer official said on Friday in Zurich it was time to clean the FIFA house. Zen-Ruffinen and his Swiss boss, FIFA's president, Sepp Blatter, were speaking to the media after a 10-hour meeting of the organisation's Executive Committee.

The meeting pitted Blatter against opponents like UEFA president Lennart Johansson, and FIFA's vice-president, Chung Mong-joon, the head of South Korean soccer, who both quit the session before the end.

Mong-joon later released a statement saying FIFA was facing "the most serious integrity problem" of its existence and accusing Blatter of trying to usurp the authority of the committee.

Known facts

Much of the meeting centred on a report by Zen-Ruffinen, who runs FIFA's day-to-day operations. He said that his 25-page report detailed actions that could be part of a criminal investigation and which show there could be corruption in the organization.

“It was time to put on the table some facts which everybody knew,” he added, “because these elements had been distributed by the press.”

In recent media interviews, Zen-Ruffinen, who was a long-time protégé of Blatter’s, has made a series of allegations about mismanagement and impropriety, including voter fraud and document theft.

He said on Friday his executive committee report had highlighted misleading accounting practices within FIFA, conflicts of interest and claims that a family member of a top Caribbean soccer official had impersonated Haiti's delegate at the 1998 FIFA congress which elected Blatter.

“I’m not a Mr Clean,” said Zen-Ruffinen. “If the Executive Committee fails to answer my concerns, I will have to find another job.”

Election manoeuvres

Blatter is not about to take any accusations lying down either, and said talk of criminal activities was hazardous. He pointed out that he spent three hours answering the allegations made in the report.

“I felt like I was in the wrong movie,” he added. “I couldn't answer all questions directly. I will do so in writing next week.”

Zen-Ruffinen has also claimed Blatter supporters tried to stop him testifying to an internal inquiry into FIFA's finances.

The audit was demanded by the president’s opponents on the executive committee, but he suspended the investigation soon after it began, citing breaches of confidentiality. The committee decided on Friday that the inquiry should continue after this summer's World Cup finals.

Zen-Ruffinen told newspapers the inquiry would have uncovered facts that would have damaged Blatter's re-election campaign. But Blatter claims the attacks are part of a bitter campaign for the FIFA presidency, ahead of the May 29 election, which will pit him against African soccer head Issa Hayatou.

“It's election time, and in election time people try to find things that can touch other people,” warned Blatter. “But taking the FIFA president apart is not easy to do.”

swissinfo with agencies


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