For the first time since the big raid on Fifa officials earlier this year, Sepp Blatter has been directly implicated. But what does it all mean? ANTOINETTE MULLER has five questions and answers around the criminal proceedings against Uncle Sepp.
On Friday, Swiss Authorities revealed that they will be opening a criminal investigation into some of Sepp Blatter’s financial dealings with Fifa. It was the first time since the raid on officials from world football’s governing body in May this year that Blatter had been directly implicated. The current Fifa fallout involves two concurrent investigations into corruption at the organisation. US investigators have cast their net far and wide while the Swiss investigation was looking into corruption over the bidding processes for and awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Two weeks ago US attorney-general Loretta Lynch, one of the chief architects of the US investigation, said she expected more arrests to follow soon. She did not comment on whether that would include Blatter and the Fifa boss still has not been formally arrested. But, wily old fox that he is, before the office of the Swiss attorney-general announced its case, Blatter had switched December’s executive committee meeting from Japan – which has a formal extradition treaty with the US – back to Zurich. You gotta give it to the guy – he’s always a step ahead, but this criminal investigation is a serious issue. Here’s a look at some of the key questions surrounding the announcement.
What exactly is Blatter alleged to have done?
Blatter is under investigation by Swiss authorities for two things.
One is ‘criminal mismanagement’ of funds. This revolves largely around Blatter allegedly signing off television rights for a fraction of what they are worth. The investigation dates back to September 2005 when Blatter allegedly canoodled with everyone’s favourite bat-shit-crazy football administrator Jack Warner. Swiss authorities reckon Blatter acted “against the interest of Fifa”.
The second investigation surrounds a ‘disloyal payment’ to Michel Platini, at the expense of Fifa. The payment was allegedly made for work between 1999 and 2002 and paid over in February 2011. The payment amounted to around 2-million Swiss francs. Why this payment took so long to materialise is anyone’s guess, but the voting for the 2022 Qatar World Cup did take place in December 2010. That vote and subsequent awarding of the World Cup has since been steeped in controversy and Platini did vote for Qatar. Considering that the Swiss investigation was based largely around corruption into the bidding and voting process for the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, it is not unreasonable to suspect that there could be a link. But that, of course, is all just speculation and we’ll have to wait and see how the investigation pans out.
Will Blatter remain in charge until next year’s elections?
In short, yes. Blatter’s lawyer has already said that these revelations will not push Blatter to stand down before February. However, if he is charged or indicted, that will change. Since the news first broke about the investigations into Fifa in May this year, it has become quite clear that everyone involved is taking their time to do things properly. The Swiss attorney-general hasn’t actually charged Blatter with anything and this is simply an extension of the investigation. The sentence for criminal mismanagement is up to five years in prison, but he has to be charged, go to court and be given a fair trial before we can start thinking about jail terms.
If he gets booted out before, who will take over?
If the investigation shifts and Blatter walks before February, it’ll be the Cameroonian chief of the African Football Confederation (Caf), Issa Hayatou, who would become acting president. That’s a pretty scary thought as Hayatou has held a dictatorship role in African football for quite some time. Hayatou took over the Caf presidency in 1987 and he still has it, largely because of a rule change put forward by the man himself.
Caf previously required officials who turn 70 to step down from their post. Largely to benefit the 69-year old’s grip on power, Caf also previously brought in a rule that candidates for its presidency can only come from the ranks of its own executive committee, a tight-knit club closely controlled by Hayatou. Fifa does not have the same restriction. Now an acting president can’t just go around changing rules willy nilly, but it’s a pretty scary thought that somebody with such an obsession with power is so close to the top ranks of Fifa.
What does this mean for Platini’s presidency bid?
Currently it doesn’t change much for Platini’s quest to become president, as he is being treated as a witness. As the beneficiary of a payment that is alleged to have been illegal, Platini does have a lot of explaining to do. If he cannot explain how he came to receive this payment, then he can kiss his hopes of taking over the reins at Fifa goodbye.
Are any of South Africa’s co-conspirators involved?
As it stands, the still unnamed South African co-conspirators are in the clear. The Democratic Alliance have opened proceedings against Danny Jordaan and Molefi Oliphant but, as with the Blatter case, it is simply an investigation at the moment. It is unlikely that South Africa’s phantom conspirators will be directly implicated in this case, despite cosying up to Warner on more than one occasion. This is very much between Blatter and a few of his pawns. DM
Photo: A file picture dated 29 May 2015 of FIFA President Joseph Blatter (L) being congratulated by UEFA President Michel Platini (R) after his election as FIFA president during the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) on 24 September 2015 has opened criminal proceedings against FIFA president Joseph Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation, media reports stated on 25 September 2015. Blatter is suspected of a disloyal payment of 2 million Swiss francs (1.83 million euro) to UEFA president Michel Platini. EPA/PATRICK B. KRAEMER.