SEOUL • Fifa presidential hopeful Chung Mong Joon believes the ethics committee of football's governing body wants him banned for 19 years and slammed the move as a bid to "smear" his campaign.
The South Korean tycoon said yesterday that Fifa president Sepp Blatter, himself the target of a Swiss criminal investigation, was behind the attacks on him.
"The fact that I am the target of Mr Blatter's smear campaign is clearly the most powerful endorsement of my candidacy," he said.
Chung, 63, said Fifa's independent ethics committee had asked for a 15-year suspension from all football activities for alleged vote-trading and other actions during bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
South Korea was one of the candidates for the 2022 tournament which went to Qatar.
Chung added that he faced an additional four-year ban for allegedly defaming the ethics committee.
"People say Fifa's ethics committee is Mr Blatter's 'hit-man'. They never hit him but only those who challenge Mr Blatter," said the South Korean, a scion of the Hyundai industrial conglomerate.
Fifa and its ethics commission declined to comment on the claims.
Chung, a leading candidate for the election in February, along with Uefa president Michel Platini and Prince Ali Hussein of Jordan, has become a virulent critic of Blatter.
He said he was under scrutiny for letters he sent in 2010 to Fifa executive committee members about the creation of a Global Football Fund (GFF). South Korea proposed the fund to support football projects, valued at US$777 million (S$1.11 billion), as it was bidding to host the World Cup. "No money or personal favours were exchanged in relation to GFF," Chung said, adding Fifa had closed the case in 2010 with no charges made against him.
That case has now been revived.
"The fundamental reason why I am being targeted is that I aimed straight at the existing power structure of Fifa," he said.
Such a "retroactive sanction" sought by the committee is based only on testimonies from Blatter and his former right-hand man, secretary-general Jerome Valcke.
"To attack my credibility, the ethics committee relies on the testimonies of two major witnesses, Mr Blatter and Mr Valcke," said Chung, a Fifa vice-president until 2011.
Valcke was suspended last month over alleged links to a black market ticket scheme surrounding last year's World Cup.
Chung refused to present himself to the hearing unless Blatter and Valcke came as witnesses.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS