Zurich: Suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter appeared before the world body's ethics judges yesterday to answer corruption allegations as Switzerland announced it has frozen tens of millions of dollars in accounts linked to football bribes.
Suspended FIFA chief Sepp Blatter arrives at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich for a FIFA court hearing yesterday
Blatter, who with vice president Michel Platini faces a long suspension, arrived at FIFA's base in Zurich in a black Mercedes with his lawyer. He made no comment as he entered. Before the hearing, Blatter, 79, wrote a letter to FIFA's 209 members calling the FIFA ethics commission's investigators "the inquisition". As the hearing went ahead, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, whose country will host the 2018 World Cup, said Blatter should be a Nobel Peace laureate.
Putin backing Sepp
"That is someone who should be given the Nobel Peace Prize. His contribution to the global humanitarian sphere is colossal," Putin said. Blatter is under criminal investigation in Switzerland over a two million Swiss francs ($2 million) payment made to Platini in 2011 for work carried out about a decade earlier. Platini's case will be heard on today, but he has said he will boycott the tribunal. His lawyers will attend.
Platini has said the verdict has been decided in advance and his lawyers say FIFA's ethics committee has recommended a life ban for the French football legend. Blatter and Platini deny any misconduct. The ethics committee chamber is expected to announce its verdict next Monday. Appeals to a FIFA appeal committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport are then possible.
FIFA has been plunged into several corruption scandals this year, which played a key role in Blatter's announcement in June that he would stand down when a new election is held in February.
Platini was considered favourite to take over but his campaign was frozen since he and Blatter were suspended in October over the payment which they insist was legal. USA have asked Switzerland to freeze about 50 accounts in Swiss banks linked to its massive inquiry into football corruption. Germany has also asked Switzerland for judicial help over its inquiry into allegations that bribes were paid to secure the 2006 World Cup finals.