Football: Fifa files criminal complaint over Blatter role in museum project

Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter was suspended and later banned after he became the subject of criminal proceedings in Switzerland in 2015. PHOTO: AFP

LAUSANNE (REUTERS) - World football's governing body Fifa says it has filed a criminal complaint with Zurich's cantonal prosecutor, claiming evidence of "criminal mismanagement" of a museum project set up by former president Sepp Blatter.

Fifa said its complaint "identified the direct involvement of former Fifa president Joseph S. Blatter together with other persons" in the agreements made for the museum which is in central Zurich.

"The complaint includes the entire project costs at CHF 500 million (S$753 million), and identifies that the previous Fifa administration poured CHF 140 million into renovating and refurbishing a building that the organisation doesn't own, while also locking itself into a long-term rental agreement on unfavourable terms when compared to standard market rates, which, in total, will cost Fifa CHF 360 million by the date of expiration in 2045," Fifa said in a statement.

"That is half a billion Swiss Francs that could and should have been channelled into the development of global football."

Lorenz Erni, Blatter's lawyer, said in response: "The accusations are baseless and are vehemently repudiated".

Blatter, who was Fifa president for 17 years, was suspended and later banned by the body's ethics committee after he became the subject of criminal proceedings in Switzerland in 2015.

Fifa deputy secretary-general Alasdair Bell said that a 'forensic audit' had been undertaken into the project.

"That audit revealed a wide range of suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature and which therefore need to be properly investigated by the relevant authorities," Bell said in the statement.

Fifa said it also plans to submit all relevant documentation to its own ethics committee.

The complaint is the latest in a series of legal issues surrounding Fifa.

Current Fifa president Gianni Infantino is himself facing criminal proceedings by a special prosecutor looking into dealings the Swiss official had with former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber. Infantino and Lauber have denied any wrongdoing.

After the announcement of those proceedings, Blatter called for Infantino to be suspended.

Earlier this month, special prosecutor Stefan Keller said he had asked Swiss authorities to investigate Infantino's use of private air travel.

"Fifa and its president will obviously take all necessary legal steps and remedies to put an end to these baseless and ill-intentioned accusation," the organisation said in response to Keller.

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