FIFA hands over Jerome Valcke's emails as part of investigation
GENEVA (AP) — FIFA relented and handed over emails from suspended official Jerome Valcke on Thursday, having blocked access even as Sepp Blatter pledged support for American and Swiss investigations of corruption.
The embattled governing body should cooperate "no matter how close to home those investigations get," Blatter, who is targeted by both criminal cases, had said earlier Thursday.
"This is the difficult path we must follow if we are serious about change," the FIFA president wrote in his weekly in-house magazine column.
Still, Blatter's comments seemed at odds with FIFA's behavior during a standoff with Switzerland's attorney general Michael Lauber.
FIFA had continued to block attempts to unseal emails from Valcke's business and personal accounts despite Lauber's public request on Wednesday.
The stand-off ended late Thursday afternoon when FIFA finally stopped insisting that "several conditions will be fulfilled," Lauber's office said.
"FIFA informed the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) to unseal all email accounts belonging to Mr. Jerome Valcke, suspended Secretary-General," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement. "Furthermore, the OAG is pleased to note that FIFA has handed over on its own initiative Mr. Jerome Valcke's emails since May 2015."
Valcke's FIFA and Google email accounts were used to discuss a proposed deal for black-market 2014 World Cup ticket sales, a FIFA-contracted ticket agent alleged last week.
The French official denied wrongdoing but hours after the allegation was made he was suspended by FIFA which also asked its ethics committee to investigate.
"We need to show that we understand the severity of this situation and that we are ready to take the right steps to fix it," Blatter wrote Thursday.
Lauber and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch last week said at a shared news conference in Zurich that their respective cases implicating senior FIFA officials are expanding, and could yet indict Blatter.
The U.S. case alleging bribery and racketeering among FIFA vice presidents and longtime executive committee members has indicted 14 people and taken guilty pleas from four others.
A Swiss case that started with FIFA's complaint last year of possible money laundering in the 2018-2022 World Cup bid contests is now looking for evidence of criminal mismanagement across FIFA's day-to-day business.
Blatter has denied wrongdoing and blamed corruption on individuals outside FIFA's control.
In his column, Blatter linked the criminal investigations to the need for reforming FIFA when his 18-year presidency ends in February, after a previous round of modernizing changes fell short.
"However, the highly regrettable events this year have made it painfully clear those changes have not been enough," he wrote.
Failing to approve reforms at the Feb. 26 election congress in Zurich would be a "betrayal" of FIFA by the 209 member federations, Blatter suggested.
Some reforms, including term limits for top officials, were rejected by those same members last year in Brazil after Blatter told them that rules forced upon FIFA would later apply worldwide.
Still, Blatter reminded Thursday that "millions of fans around the world ... rightly expect the highest standards from those managing the game."