15 Jun 2020
AP – Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is the target of a criminal investigation in Switzerland for suspected mismanagement of a $1 million payment from soccer funds.
Blatter has been notified by Swiss federal prosecutors he is an “accused person” over a loan FIFA gave in 2010 to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.
The 84-year-old Blatter has denied any wrongdoing during decades of financial scandals linked to soccer’s world governing body, though he was banned from the presidency and risks being brought to trial in his home country.
The payment now publicly revealed came from a FIFA account on April 13, 2010, and was interest-free, unsecured and later waived as a kind of gift, the document detailed.
It is the latest allegation in Swiss and American federal investigations tying FIFA to irregular payments benefiting Jack Warner, its former vice president from Trinidad who is fighting extradition to the United States.
Warner long controlled a key bloc in FIFA elections until he left soccer after being implicated in bribing voters to oppose Blatter in 2011. He was also an elected lawmaker in the Caribbean nation and became a government minister after a general election held in May 2010.
Two former senior FIFA officials – Jérôme Valcke as secretary general, and Markus Kattner as finance director – are also named as accused persons.
The Swiss federal prosecution office said in a statement Saturday that criminal proceedings against Blatter were extended last month to include Valcke and Kattner. The office said both men, who were fired by FIFA in 2016, have the presumption of innocence.
The investigation document is dated May 13, 2020 – several weeks after the office said it was closing one of two criminal proceedings opened against Blatter five years earlier.
The allegation to be dropped was that Blatter mismanaged a World Cup broadcast deal for the Caribbean that let Warner personally profit by millions of dollars.
That prosecution decision revealed in April suggested Blatter could be cleared by Swiss justice after years under suspicion and while serving a six-year ban by FIFA’s ethics committee. It expires in October 2021.
The Swiss prosecution document does not directly connect the timing of FIFA’s $1 million payment with the general election in Trinidad and Tobago.
Warner did try to link FIFA officials to his domestic political career in a June 2015 television appearance in his home country. That came within days of Blatter announcing plans to resign his 17-year FIFA presidency in fallout from the American and Swiss federal investigations.
Warner had been an opposition lawmaker since 2007. After a transition of power in the May 2010 election, Warner became minister for works and transport. He was voted out of his parliamentary seat in 2015 several months after being indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The corruption charges against Warner included getting a $10 million bribe from 2010 World Cup host South Africa routed through FIFA.
A fresh indictment published in April alleged Warner was paid $5 million by Russian interests as bribes to support the country’s winning bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Warner dismissed the allegations in comments reported by Trinidadian media.
By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press, 13 June 2020
Read more at the Associated Press
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