FIFA bans Thai Chief Worawi

Thai FA chief Worawi Makudi, 63, was a Fifa executive committee member for 18 years until May. He has faced multiple allegations of wrongdoing.
Thai FA chief Worawi Makudi, 63, was a Fifa executive committee member for 18 years until May. He has faced multiple allegations of wrongdoing.PHOTO: REUTERS

Former Fifa exco member is the latest to be suspended; payout to Platini was 'unofficial'

LAUSANNE • Fifa's ethics watchdog has banned Thailand football chief Worawi Makudi for 90 days as acting president Issa Hayatou delayed his arrival at football's corruption-hit ruling body by 24 hours.

The ethics committee said it had moved to sideline Worawi "on the grounds that a breach of the code of ethics appears to have been committed".

Worawi, 63, was a Fifa executive committee member for 18 years until May and has faced multiple allegations of wrongdoing. He was found guilty in July by a Thai court of forgery in his re-election as head of the Football Association of Thailand.

Worawi said he would fight to clear his name.

"I am confused by this. I just heard the news," he said. "I am not guilty of anything. Under Thai law, I still have the right to appeal (the July court decision). I did not falsify anything, what I did was absolutely legal."

Yesterday's ban follows matching suspensions handed out to beleaguered outgoing Fifa president Sepp Blatter and European football boss Michel Platini last Thursday.

Hayatou had been set to turn up at Fifa's Zurich headquarters to assume command today, but the 69-year-old African football boss' arrival is "now expected on Wednesday", a Fifa press spokesman said.

He was appointed caretaker boss of Fifa in his capacity as its oldest serving vice-president.

Blatter was relieved of his duties by Fifa's ethics committee as Swiss prosecutors investigate him for criminal mismanagement.

The 79-year-old, who was due to stand aside from the organisation he has run since 1998 in February, is appealing against his suspension.

Platini, the front runner to succeed Blatter, is also appealing against his ban.

The former French football legend has denied any wrongdoing in accepting a 2 million Swiss francs (S$2.9 million) payment from Fifa in February 2011 for consulting work he undertook years earlier and called the ban "farcical".

But, according to The Guardian, he had no written contract for what Fifa paid him, which is the subject of criminal proceedings in Switzerland and a Fifa ethics committee investigation.

According to sources with knowledge of the payment, Platini and Blatter are understood to have told investigators the money was paid owing to an agreement they made orally when Platini worked as Blatter's adviser at Fifa, between 1998 and 2002.

Platini, who has made four statements about the payment but given no detailed explanation since Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber announced that it is subject to criminal proceedings, has said Fifa did not pay him during that period because of the organisation's "financial situation at the time".

Yet, even if such a payment was validly due, despite there being no agreement in writing to document it, and Fifa did genuinely struggle to pay it in 2002, Swiss law limits to five years employees' claims for money owed.

This perception - that the payment was in fact time-barred and therefore no longer legally owing - is understood to form part of both Mr Lauber's criminal proceedings and the investigation by Fifa.

Fifa's ethics committee is understood also to be investigating whether the payment breached the requirement in Fifa's ethics code for football people to avoid "existing or potential conflicts of interest".

Platini received the 2 million francs in February 2011, shortly before he decided not to stand as a rival candidate in the May 2011 presidential election and instead supported Blatter.

When the payment was brought to Mr Lauber's attention earlier this year, Blatter and Platini are understood to have said it was due according to an oral agreement.

Platini is believed to have told investigators that he had agreed with Blatter, that for 1998 to 2002, that he would be paid 500,000 Swiss francs annually on top of his contractual 300,000 francs.

The 2 million francs appear to be explained as four years' worth of payments of that 500,000 francs.

Part of Mr Lauber's investigation, and that of the ethics committee, whose two "investigatory" and "adjudicatory" arms are chaired respectively by the Swiss criminal lawyer Cornel Borbely and the Munich judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, is whether Blatter had authority to make such an oral agreement.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2015, with the headline 'FIFA BANS THAI CHIEF WORAWI'. Print Edition | Subscribe