SEOUL, South Korea (AP) FIFA presidential contender Chung Mong-joon said Tuesday he is facing a 19-year suspension by the ethics committee of the world football body for alleged ethics breaches surrounding South Korea's failed bid for the 2022 World Cup, and also for openly criticizing the committee.
The South Korean billionaire denied any wrongdoing and accused the committee of acting as a ''hit man'' of current FIFA President Sepp Blatter who Chung says is attempting to damage his candidacy.
''The true danger is that they won't stop at sabotaging only my candidacy but also destructing FIFA's presidential election and FIFA itself,'' the former FIFA vice president said in a news conference in Seoul.
Chung said the ethics committee is planning to hit him soon with a 15-year suspension for proposing, in letters to members of FIFA's executive committee, a $777 million fund to finance football development projects around the world.
Although South Korea was then still in the race for the 2022 event, Chung said his proposals were in line with FIFA's rules. He said FIFA had already investigated the issue in 2010 and determined the matter as closed, but reopened the case after he declared his presidential candidacy in August. Chung also said the committee threatened to hit him with an additional 4-year suspension for ''defaming'' the committee after he questioned its integrity.
''The fundamental reason why I am being targeted is that I aimed straight at the existing power structure of FIFA,'' said Chung, who believes his candidacy could be jeopardized if the committee confirms the suspensions after a hearing.
FIFA has set a Feb. 26 election to replace Blatter, who announced his departure in June amid mounting pressure to reform after widespread allegations of corruption within FIFA ranks. Contenders are required to secure nominations from five federations to officially register as candidates by the Oct. 26 deadline. UEFA President Michel Platini of France and Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan have also declared their candidacy for football's top office.
Chung, the billionaire scion of the Hyundai business group, was a FIFA vice president for 17 years, and was once considered a candidate to succeed Blatter before losing his seat in 2011, to Prince Ali.
He was a key figure in helping South Korea land the right to co-host the 2002 World Cup with Japan, and has been a longtime critic of Blatter, whom he described in a memoir published in 2011 as a dictatorial ''little brat.''