Swiss authorities have opened a criminal investigation on embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter in the latest major development on the corruption crisis revolving around the international sports organization.
According to the New York Times, Blatter is being investigated for the suspicion of criminal mismanagement and the misappropriation of funds. On Friday, police raided his office at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters and seized his computer before performing a lengthy interview.
The 79-year-old is suspect of making a ‘disloyal payment’ of two million Swiss francs (CAD$2.72 million) to UEFA president Michael Platini for ‘work’ performed between 1999 and 2002.
It is also believed he worked with indicted former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner to approve a World Cup television rights deal that was far below the market value.
At the time of the 2005 contract, Warner was also the head of CONCACAF. He is now awaiting extradition to the United States for a corruption investigation being led by the FBI.
There is also a possibility that Blatter could face an internal FIFA independent ethics committee investigation. Jerome Valcke was suspended last week and is the subject of an independent FIFA ethics investigation for an alleged black market ticket scheme. FIFA has since handed over all of Valcke’s emails to Swiss authorities, The Guardian reports.
The allegations fuelled by the Swiss investigation have renewed calls for Blatter to resign from his position as the chief of FIFA. He has indicated he will step down in February, after the FIFA membership reconvenes to vote for a new president.
In May, Blatter ran for his fifth consecutive term and won in a landslide victory. Amidst the revelations of a FIFA corruption scandal that involved the arrests of a number of high-ranking FIFA officials, he abruptly announced his resignation – pending the selection of a successor.
An FBI investigation was initially centred around possible bribery in FIFA’s bid processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar. It has since become a broad investigation into FIFA’s activities beginning in the late 1990s, including an investigation into South Africa’s successful 2010 World Cup bid.