Sepp Blatter has informed FIFA staff that he will remain FIFA president until February and has done “nothing illegal or improper,” reports Rob Harris of the Associated Press.
On Friday, Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation into Blatter for criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of FIFA money. They interrogated him in Zurich on Friday, the Swiss attorney general announced.
Blatter returned to work on Monday and pleaded his innocence as the FIFA ethics committee reviews whether he should be suspended as a result of the Swiss investigation.
UEFA chief Michel Platini was among the candidates ready to run for the FIFA presidency, but that is now in question after findings show that he received a £1.3million payment from Blatter.
Blatter's lawyers issued the following statement:
”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.
On the Platini matter, President Blatter on Friday shared with the Swiss authorities the fact that Mr. Platini had a valuable employment relationship with FIFA serving as an advisor to the president beginning in 1998. He explained to the prosecutors that the payments were valid compensation and nothing more and were properly accounted for within FIFA including the withholding of Social Security contributions.”
Platini responded with a statement of his own saying that the income has been “fully declared” to the authorities.
On May 27, 14 former FIFA officials were indicted and charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies by the United States Justice Department, which accused FIFA of decades of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption by members of world soccer's governing body.
Blatter was re-elected for a fifth presidential term at FIFA's congress in May, before announcing that he would stand down from his post in February.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Sept. 14 that the United States’ investigation into FIFA was far from over.
If Blatter does not go through with his decision to remain as president and steps down before February, Issa Hayatou, the head of African soccer and the most senior FIFA vice president, would take his place.
- Christopher Chavez