FIFA corruption scandal: FIFA Prez Sepp Blatter digs in his heels

Despite ongoing criminal proceedings against him, FIFA's embattled president says he will hold on to his seat as he has done 'no wrong'

Zurich: Sepp Blatter insisted yesterday that he would stay on as the body's president, his lawyer said, as UEFA chief Michel Platini revealed a payment made to him from Blatter had been "fully declared" to authorities.

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter

The head of world football's governing body said he would remain in his position while cooperating with criminal proceedings opened against him by Swiss prosecutors. He also defended a payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.05 million) made in 2011 to Platini, which investigators say may have been "disloyal" to FIFA.

"President Blatter spoke to FIFA staff today and informed the staff that he was cooperating with the authorities, reiterated that he had done nothing illegal or improper and stated that he would remain as president of FIFA," Blatter's US-based lawyer Richard Cullen said in a statement.

In a meeting with Swiss investigators on Friday, Blatter said the payments to Platini were "valid compensation and nothing more and were properly accounted for within FIFA", said Cullen. The Swiss attorney general, who announced the proceedings against Blatter on Friday, has raised questions about the payment to Platini, which Platini said was in exchange for work done nearly a decade earlier.

Michel Platini
Michel Platini 

Platini has been questioned by Swiss investigators, but has not been named as the subject of criminal proceedings. In a statement to UEFA member associations, Platini said the payment had been "fully declared by me to the authorities, in accordance with Swiss law". He added that he had spoken with Swiss authorities as part of the investigation and had requested to be heard by the FIFA ethics committee.

"I was interviewed by the Swiss authorities about this matter, not as a person accused of any wrongdoing, but simply in my capacity as a person providing information," added the Frenchman, a candidate to succeed Blatter in charge of FIFA. "Furthermore, I have today written to the Ethics Committee of FIFA to request that I may come forward and provide whatever additional information may be needed in order to clear this matter up."

Swiss agents searched FIFA's offices in Zurich on Friday, forcing the cancellation of a press conference where Blatter was supposed to have addressed a range of crises surrounding world football.

FIFA's ethics committee could end Sepp's stint
A criminal case in Switzerland may not be what forces Sepp Blatter from FIFA's presidency. FIFA's own ethics committee — which includes an investigative arm and a branch responsible for judgement — could prompt Blatter's suspension regardless of whether the Swiss attorney general ultimately files charges against him. The increasingly powerful committee could also derail UEFA President Michel Platini's hopes of succeeding Blatter

How does it work?
FIFA's ethics committee changed significantly in 2012, when it gained the right to open inquiries without approval from the secretary general. Committee spokesman Andreas Bantel would not comment on specifics related to Blatter or Platini, but said the panel initiates a probe “if there is an initial suspicion,” underscoring that this applied to all FIFA officials, regardless of rank. An ethics committee inquiry would not automatically trigger Blatter's suspension, but, with the president having committed to leave in February, the pressure for him to step aside could rise. Platini had been the favourite to succeed Blatter, but former FIFA insiders said that being the subject of an ethics probe could make it impossible for him to win the presidency.

Who is in charge?
American prosecutor Michael Garcia led the investigative branch until last year, when it looked into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Garcia resigned in furious protest, after what he described as the whitewashing of his findings. He was replaced by Cornel Borbely, a 36-year-old former prosecutor in Zurich, who specialises in economic crimes. Borbely's investigative unit has six other members. The panel responsible for judgement is led by the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and has seven other members.

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