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FIFA president hits back at critics

Blatter (left) with his rival Zen-Ruffinen during the draw for the upcoming football World Cup 2002

(Keystone Archive)

The president of football's governing body has responded point by point to allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement made by committee members.

"The extent and unsubstantiated content of these allegations must be set right," Sepp Blatter said in a 30-page report released on Saturday.

"They will come back to haunt my accusers, above all the general secretary," Michel Zen-Ruffinen.

Blatter said he was responding to an explosive report released on May 3 by his rival, Zen-Ruffinen. The FIFA president claimed the hard-hitting document, presented to the body's ruling executive committee, was aimed at preventing him from serving a second four-year term.

Issa Hayatou, Blatter's opponent in the May 29 vote in Seoul, was one of eleven executive committee members to launch legal proceedings against Blatter on May 10.

Blatter said that move was "the most saddening twist so far."

Unauthorised payments

Once Blatter's ally, Zen-Ruffinen accused his boss of making repeated unauthorised payments, including writing a cheque for $25,000 to a Niger refugee to dig up dirt on one of Blatter's critics.

Blatter cited a statement dated May 13, by a FIFA director, Walter Gagg, in his defence.

"The FIFA president gave the cheque to Lucien Bouchardeau" upon hearing of his personal ruin at the hands of African football officials. "This gesture from the FIFA president constituted nothing more than an act of humanity in the face of Bouchardeau's despair," Gagg wrote.

"It had nothing to do with any intention to involve this individual in corruption in return for information."

Financial mismanagement

Zen-Ruffinen charged in his own report that Blatter's management and the bankruptcy of FIFA's marketing partner, ISL/ISMM, had cost the organisation up to SFr800 million ($500 million).

Blatter responded that Zen-Ruffinen's report was made up of statements that were inaccurate and demonstrated a "lack of knowledge and ability."

Answering financial allegations, Blatter said he could not understand how his number two could claim to have been kept in the dark about the extent of losses.

Zen-Ruffinen "constantly received documents concerning FIFA's financial situation," Blatter wrote. The auditing firm KPMG had confirmed that FIFA's annual accounts "conformed to statutory and legal rules and recommended them for approval."

Zen-Ruffinen "gave his unconditional signature for the annual accounts, confirming them to be complete and correct," Blatter added.

"There may be legal repercussions for him," Blatter seemed to warn, because Zen-Ruffinen was now alleging the accounts were flawed, despite having earlier signed them as accurate.

swissinfo with agencies

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