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Charges filed Attorney General opens criminal proceedings against Blatter

Blatter has headed FIFA since 1998

(Keystone)

The Swiss Attorney General's office has opened criminal proceedings against outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter. He is being investigated on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation.

The office of the Attorney General suspects that Blatter signed a contract with Jack Warner of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) which is suspected of going against the interests of FIFA.

Warner, the ex-chief of the Caribbean Football Union is currently under investigation for alleged corruption by the US Department of Justice. 

The television broadcasting rights, which were sold to the CFU in September 2005 for $600,000 (CHF580,000), were then re-sold to a marketing firm for a double-digit million-dollar sum. There were two payments made, one for the South Africa World Cup TV rights and the other for the Brazil World Cup rights

FIFA issued a statement saying that the CFU failed to meet its obligations to pay further fees on top of the $600,000.

In addition, Blatter is suspected of making a payment to the president of UEFA Michel Platini, again against FIFA's interests.

According to the Attorney General's office, Blatter was interrogated on Friday following a meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich. 

The Office of the Attorney General also searched FIFA headquarters on Friday, seizing data from Blatter's office.

In a press release, FIFA said it would fully cooperate with the proceedings against Blatter, saying it had already allowed the Attorney General's office access to documents, data and other information. 

"We will continue this level of cooperation during the investigation," the organisation said.

Platini, who announced plans to run as Blatter's successor in July, also released a statement to the media.

"Today I was asked by the Swiss authorities to provide information relating to the ongoing investigations surrounding FIFA," he said. "I have always been open to supporting the relevant bodies and authorities in their investigative work and therefore cooperated fully."

"Regarding the payment that was made to me, I wish to state that this amount relates to work which I carried out under a contract with FIFA and I was pleased to have been able to clarify all matters relating to this with the authorities."

Cancelled press conference

The announcement of charges against Blatter came just after FIFA took the highly unusual decision to snub invited journalists at the end of its two-day executive committee meeting. The world governing body of football is mired in corruption allegations and related criminal investigations.

FIFA executives had been discussing those criminal probes in the United States and Switzerland amid a range of other issues. 

Journalists flew into Switzerland from around the world expecting to grill outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter about the latest corruption allegations, but were informed at the last minute that the scheduled press conference had been cancelled. 

No reason was given for the abrupt cancellation, but it followed a deepening of the crisis at FIFA on Thursday when the Swiss Attorney General demanded access to the email correspondence of suspended FIFA Secretary-General Jéròme Valcke.

FIFA at first tried to place conditions on the handover of the Valcke emails but later backed down under pressure from Switzerland’s top prosecutor.

Valcke has for some days been facing media allegations that he was involved in a World Cup ticketing scam. Valcke denies any wrongdoing, but is being investigated by FIFA's ethics committee whilst he is on gardening leave.

Extradition fears

FIFA's executive committee also decided to change the location of its December summit from Japan (which will host the Club World Cup) to Zurich, also without explanation. 

While he has not been charged or personally accused by law enforcement agencies of any offences, Blatter has cancelled engagements that entail travel to countries that have an extradition treaty with the US.

FIFA issued a press release after the executive committee meeting vowing equally to reform its governance of football and ensure greater women's participation in the sport.

The subject of governance reform will feature more heavily during December's executive meeting when François Carrard, head of the Reform Committee, will present his recommendations.

Other notable items on the agenda on Thursday and Friday in Zurich included the state of preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.

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