Swiss authorities have opened a criminal investigation into outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter and interrogated him in Zurich on Friday morning, the Swiss attorney general announced.
The Swiss attorney general is bringing charges of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation against Blatter, who said in June that he would resign as FIFA president in February. His announcement came days after the United States indicted 14 former FIFA officials on corruption charges. Switzerland has opened a separate investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
In a press release, the Swiss attorney general announced that the charges stemmed from the “unfavorable” contract with the Caribbean Football Union that Blatter signed in 2005 and from suspected “disloyal payment” to Michel Platini, UEFA president, at the expense of FIFA as an organization.
Swiss authorities also seized data from Blatter’s office at FIFA headquarters on Friday after performing a search.
Platini, who has announced he is running to replace Blatter as president in the February election, was also questioned by Swiss authorities over payments made in 2011 for work allegedly done between 1999 and 2002.
“Today I was asked by the Swiss authorities to provide information relating to the ongoing investigations surrounding FIFA,” Platini said in a statement Friday. “I have always been open to supporting the relevant bodies and authorities in their investigative work and therefore cooperated fully.”
FIFA released a statement Friday morning saying it will cooperate with Switzerland’s investigation, but had no further comment.
On Sept. 11, Swiss broadcaster SRF published a document signed by Blatter in 2005 showing the sale of the 2010 and 2014 World Cup rights to Caribbean Football Union, which was controlled by Jack Warner.
The sale totaled to $600,000. Warner then transferred the rights to his private company and sold them for about $20 million.
In 2011, following his departure from FIFA after he was implicated in bribery, Warner claimed that FIFA agreed to give him cheap World Cup rights in exchange for helping Blatter continue to win elections.
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.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Sept. 14 that the United States’ investigation into FIFA was far from over.
If Blatter is relieved of his presidential duties before February, Issa Hayatou, the head of African soccer and the most senior FIFA vice president, would take his place.
- Erin Flynn