Fifa trio 'enriched themselves'

Pay rises and perks for Blatter, Valcke and Kattner total $110m; new chief now under fire

ZURICH • Swiss investigators have searched Fifa's headquarters, as the world football governing body revealed another bombshell yesterday. It said former president Sepp Blatter and two of his deputies awarded themselves more than US$80 million (S$110 million) in often suspicious payments over the past five years.

Fifa also had to deny media reports that new president Gianni Infantino was under investigation. In addition, it said Blatter, former secretary-general Jerome Valcke and finance director Markus Kattner made a coordinated effort to "enrich themselves" and that the Swiss and United States authorities were being informed.

Blatter is serving a six-year suspension from football over a two million Swiss franc (S$2.78 million) payment made to former Fifa vice-president Michel Platini.

Details of his compensation include bonuses of between 11 million and 12 million francs for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments, and annual "representation expenses" of 500,000 francs.

Valcke and Kattner have both been fired in recent months over World Cup ticket scandals and payments they received.

Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said its investigators "carried out a search of Fifa's headquarters" on Thursday as part of its inquiry into the federation's mismanagement and the awarding of World Cup tournaments. "Documents and electronic data were seized and will now be examined to determine their relevance to the ongoing proceedings," said the OAG.

Fifa said the search had concentrated on Kattner's office. It also said that some of the contracts agreed by Blatter, Valcke and Kattner "appear to violate Swiss law".

"The evidence appears to reveal a coordinated effort by three former top officials of Fifa to enrich themselves through annual salary increases, World Cup bonuses and other incentives totalling more than 79 million Swiss francs in just the last five years," said Bill Burck, a partner with the Quinn Emmanuel audit firm brought in to look at Fifa's books.

"The investigation has produced evidence of breaches of fiduciary duty. It also raises questions about the role of Fifa's compensation sub-committee."

Fifa has been battling to redeem its name since a raid on a Zurich hotel last year to arrest seven officials at the centre of a US investigation.

About 40 individuals and two companies now face charges in the US over more than US$200 million in bribes paid for television and marketing contracts.

Separately, the Swiss police have been investigating Fifa's management and the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and 2022 event to Qatar.

French prosecutors indicated this week they could look into the awarding of the Qatar World Cup.

Infantino became president in February in a bid to stabilise the Fifa administration and he vowed to lead world football into a new era of "transparency" and "honesty". But he already faces scrutiny.

Fifa yesterday denied German media reports that a formal investigation had been launched into the new president. Die Welt newspaper said Infantino had improperly ordered the destruction of the minutes of a Fifa executive committee meeting held at last month's congress in Mexico City.

Fifa spokesman Delia Fischer said the allegations were baseless.

"The e-mail exchange that makes mention of the deletion of audio files refers to a copy of the original audio file of the meeting that was improperly stored on a local drive," she said. "This mention does not refer to the officially archived audio file. That file exists and is properly saved at Fifa."

Roman Geiser, a spokesman for the ethics committee's investigatory arm, said that "there are no formal proceedings going on against Mr Infantino".

Fifa officials have not discounted an official inquiry, though.

Die Welt said Fifa's ethics commission could impose a 90-day suspension on Infantino.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, BLOOMBERG NEWS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Fifa trio 'enriched themselves''. Print Edition | Subscribe