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FIFA issues ‘criminal mismanagement’ complaint against ex-president Sepp Blatter

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(Image credit: Aaron Chown)

FIFA has issued a complaint of “criminal mismanagement” against its former president Sepp Blatter.

The complaint has been sent to the Zurich prosecutor, and relates to the involvement of Blatter and other former officials at the world governing body in the FIFA museum project in the same city.

In documents seen by the PA news agency, FIFA states: “Following a detailed review of historic facts and circumstances concerning the construction and on-going operational costs of the FIFA Museum, FIFA has become aware of many serious irregularities regarding this project, which raise strong suspicions of criminal misconduct on the part of various different officials and companies associated with the matter.

“As a result, FIFA is now duty-bound to refer the matter to the Zurich prosecutor’s office for further investigation and, if necessary, prosecution.

Sepp Blatter File Photo

Sepp Blatter resigned in 2015 after 17 years as FIFA’s president (Liam McBurney/PA)

“The criminal complaint filed by FIFA is directed against various members of the former FIFA management, including former president Joseph Blatter, as well as further ‘unknown’ potential suspects. It is suspected that these individuals may have been involved in various acts of criminal mismanagement, and possibly other related offences.”

Deputy secretary general Alasdair Bell said: “Given the massive costs associated with this museum, as well as the general way of working of the previous FIFA management, a forensic audit was conducted in order to find out what really happened here.

“That audit revealed a wide range of suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature and which therefore need to be properly investigated by the relevant authorities.

“We came to the conclusion that we had no choice other than to report the case to state prosecutors, not least because the current management of FIFA also has fiduciary responsibilities to the organisation and we intend to live up to them, even if those before us dismally failed to.”

The museum project began in 2013.

Two years later, amid a corruption scandal, Blatter announced his resignation from the FIFA presidency after 17 years in the role.

The documents allege the project was “deliberately mismanaged”, and points to the decision to put 140 million Swiss francs (over £117million) into a building FIFA did not own, to lock FIFA into a rental agreement with the building’s owner – insurance firm Swiss Life – until at least 2045 costing it a further 360m Swiss francs (over £300m), and the failure to consider other any other suitable properties.

The documents state that the former management of FIFA “repeatedly misled different FIFA bodies as to the cost and viability of the project”, including the existence of alternative sites.

It also alleges “grave conflicts of interest” and “suspected nepotism” in relation to the project. Swiss Life declined to comment on the matter when approached by the PA news agency, saying it was a matter for FIFA and its former executive team.

It is understood the matter will also be brought to the attention of FIFA’s independent ethics committee.

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Gianni Infantino, pictured, succeeded Blatter as FIFA president in February 2016 (Nick Potts/PA)

Blatter is already under criminal investigation in Switzerland over a separate matter – an alleged undue payment to former UEFA president Michel Platini.

He was issued an initial eight-year ban from football by FIFA’s ethics committee in relation to that payment, reduced to six years on appeal.

That sanction was later upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The new FIFA complaint comes at a time when its current president, Gianni Infantino, is also under investigation by a Swiss special federal prosecutor.

Stefan Keller opened criminal proceedings against Infantino in July after concluding there were “indications of criminal conduct” in relation to meetings the FIFA president had with former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber in 2016 and 2017.

Earlier this month, Keller said Infantino should also face a criminal investigation over his use of a private jet in 2017, and that he had passed a file to Swiss prosecutors.

Keller said his enquiries had found that there were “clear signs of criminally reprehensible behaviour” in relation to the flight from Suriname to Geneva.

FIFA responded in the strongest possible terms to Keller’s comments concerning the jet, stating that they were “malicious and defamatory” and borne out of “extreme bias”.

Bell addressed the criminal proceedings regarding the meetings with Lauber back in August.

He said: “There is something a little bit grotesque and unfair about all this because we are 100 per cent confident that there will never be a criminal charge, far less a criminal conviction against the FIFA president.”