13 Apr 2020
Days after the U.S. Department of Justice unveiled more details in a case that has shined a light on decades-long corruption at the heart of soccer, the Swiss authorities have confirmed that they plan to drop one of two cases against Sepp Blatter, a former president of FIFA, the global governing body of soccer.
Blatter had been suspected of improper business conduct and, possibly, embezzlement, according to the Swiss authorities, and he and FIFA were being scrutinized for the awarding of World Cup broadcast rights in the Caribbean in 2005.
The setback was another blow to the credibility of the Swiss prosecution of officials in the world’s most popular sport. The inquiry in Switzerland began in September 2015, four months after a Justice Department indictment outlined corruption schemes that implicated some of soccer’s most senior leaders, businessmen and companies at the time.
While the United States has since successfully prosecuted many of them, the Swiss have failed in their attempts to match their American counterparts in the pursuit of convictions and indictments.
In reaction, Blatter said by phone on Sunday that he was frustrated by the time it had taken for the Swiss to reach a decision. “What is it that you need more than four and a half years to deal with such a case?” he said.
He has long denied any wrongdoing.
A second criminal proceeding against Blatter — for a $2 million payment he is accused of authorizing to a FIFA vice president, Michel Platini, in 2011 — remains open, the Swiss prosecution office said.
In its decision, the Swiss attorney general’s office said Blatter had no case to answer for awarding World Cup rights in the Caribbean for just $600,000 to the Caribbean Football Union. The C.F.U. later sold the rights for close to $20 million. The Swiss attorney general’s office did not give a reason for dropping the accusation.
The C.F.U. was controlled by Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice president from Trinidad who has fought extradition to the United States since being named in the first indictment in May 2015.
Warner was named in the latest superseding U.S. indictment published last Monday and accused of leveraging his position to “engage in schemes involving the solicitation, offer, acceptance, payment and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes and kickbacks.”
Warner, who was forced out of FIFA while implicated in a separate bribery scheme, claimed in 2011 that FIFA had provided him with heavily discounted World Cup rights to help Blatter win FIFA elections with the support of his Caribbean bloc. Blatter was FIFA’s president from 1998 until his ouster in December 2015, and is serving a six-year ban from soccer.
By Tariq Panja, The New York Times, 12 April 2020
Read more at The New York Times
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