FIFA President Sepp Blatter Under Criminal Investigation

Briget McDannell '18Sports Editor

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998, is currently under investigation by the Swiss government, who have released a statement saying that they are looking into “suspicion of criminal mismanagement and suspicion of misappropriation” of funds.

Beginning on Sept. 25, officials from Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General interrogated Blatter with intense scrutiny and spent over five hours searching his office. If authorities find proof of misappropriation and criminal mismanagement, Blatter will face jail time. Officials were specifically searching for evidence of Blatter’s suspected approval of a small contract for World Cup television rights as well as a large payment to top FIFA official Michel Platini, head of the European soccer’s governing body and a likely candidate to succeed Blatter as FIFA president this coming year.

Blatter’s lawyer Richard Cullen spoke out against the accusations, saying, “Certainly no mismanagement occurred … Mr. Blatter is cooperating, and we’re confident that when the Swiss authorities have a chance to review the documents and the evidence, they will see that the contract was properly prepared and negotiated by the appropriate staff members of FIFA, who were routinely responsible for such contracts.”

It was announced on Friday that the case involves a contract Blatter allegedly signed, which gave World Cup television rights to former FIFA official Jack Warner far below their market value. Blatter is accused of violating his duty as FIFA president by signing the contract in 2005. The Swiss authorities said that this contract is “unfavorable to FIFA.” The contract was taken by the Swiss broadcast corporation SRF. Then it awarded the Caribbean Football Union — controlled by Warner — the rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups for a total of $600,000. Warner, in turn, licensed those rights for roughly 33 times the original amount: about $20 million.

It is also suspected that Blatter made a payment of two million Swiss francs to Platini. The payment was supposedly made for work performed between January 1999 and June 2002 but was not officially filed until February 2011, three months before Blatter was elected to his fourth term as FIFA president.

This is the second time Blatter’s administration has been under investigation. Swiss authorities searched for and seized data at FIFA’s headquarters on May 27. After that time, 14 top soccer and marketing officials were arrested in Zurich during FIFA’s annual congress. The U.S. Department of Justice issued the warrants for the arrests, which were then carried out by the Swiss police. Blatter was not implicated or charged that day, but Swiss and U.S. officials said that he was a target in their investigations.

Four months later, Swiss authorities are now directly investigating Blatter. A U.S. law enforcement official said the recent announcement by Swiss authorities was independent of the Justice Department’s investigation in May, but Swiss and American investigators continue to coordinate their efforts.