FIFA’s Blatter again denies any wrongdoing

The president of soccer’s governing body FIFA, Sepp Blatter, has again denied any wrongdoing, telling staff he has done nothing or illegal and will remain president.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (SEPTEMBER 25, 2015) (REUTERS) – FIFA President Sepp Blatter told his staff on Monday (September 28) that he has done nothing illegal or improper and will remain as president.

A lawyers’ statement issued after the meeting in Zurich also said Blatter told Swiss authorities on Friday that payments to UEFA head Michel Platini were valid compensation and nothing more.

The statement did not specify how long Blatter would remain as FIFA president.

Swiss prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation, the Swiss attorney general’s office said on Friday (September 25).

Blatter was interrogated after a meeting of FIFA’s executive committee in Zurich that day and authorities carried out a search at FIFA headquarters.

“The office of the FIFA President has been searched and data seized,” the office of the attorney general (OAG) said in a statement.

U.S. and Swiss authorities announced in May they were investigating corruption at the highest levels of the world’s most popular sport, including in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 world cups to Russia and Qatar.

Fourteen soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted at that time, but until Friday, authorities had not pointed the finger at Blatter, the 79-year-old Swiss who has run FIFA since 1998.

He has denied wrongdoing.

Blatter was questioned by the OAG’s representatives. Michel Platini, the former French soccer star who runs European soccer body UEFA, was also asked to give information, the statement said.

Platini is favourite to win the election to replace Blatter when he steps down in February.

The statement said that Blatter was suspected of a “disloyal payment” of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.05 million) to Platini at the expense of FIFA, allegedly made for work performed between January 1999 and June 2002.

The payment was executed in February 2011, the OAG said.

A spokeswoman for U.S. prosecutors declined to comment.