The Swiss attorney general has opened criminal proceedings against Sepp Blatter in the heart of the Zurich HQ he has dominated as Fifa president for 17 years, as the continuing corruption crisis gripping world football took another dramatic turn.
The office of the attorney general said in a statement that it had interrogated Blatter following a meeting on Friday of the Fifa executive committee.
At the same time Michel Platini, the Uefa president who is hoping to replace him next year, was heard ?as a person asked to provide information?.
Fifa HQ was also searched and data seized from Blatter?s office, causing a scheduled press conference to be cancelled amid fevered speculation.
The office of the Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, said: ?On the one hand, the OAG suspects that on 12 September 2005 Mr. Joseph Blatter has signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union [with Jack Warner as the President at this time]; this contract was unfavourable for Fifa. On the other hand, there is as suspicion that, in the implementation of this agreement, Joseph Blatter also violated his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of Fifa and/or Fifa Marketing & TV AG.?
That is believed to relate to the television contract unearthed by Swiss broadcasters that showed Blatter had agreed to sell TV rights to the disgraced former Fifa heavyweight Jack Warner at below the market rate.
?Additionally, Mr. Joseph Blatter is suspected of a disloyal payment of 2m Swiss francs to Michel Platini, president of Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), at the expense of Fifa, which was allegedly made for work performed between January 1999 and June 2002 ; this payment was executed in February 2011.?
As the net has closed around Blatter, who has refused to travel to any countries with an extradition treaty with the US since the scandal broke, he has cut an increasingly remote figure.
?As for all defendants, the presumption of innocence applies for Mr Joseph Blatter,? said the Swiss attorney general. Blatter has always denied any wrongdoing.
Lauber confirmed last week that his office was looking into the TV contract signed by Blatter and Warner as part of its wider investigation, which began as a probe into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
In May, seven Fifa executives were arrested in the lobby of the Baur au Lac hotel as American prosecutors outlined charges of money laundering, racketeering and fraud against 14 individuals including nine high ranking football officials.
Of the 14 Fifa officials indicted in May, 13 have been arrested, of whom three have been charged in US courtrooms and 10 await extradition.
On Thursday, Fifa handed over emails from Blatter?s longstanding right-hand man, J?r?me Valcke, having blocked access even as the outgoing president pledged support for American and Swiss investigations of corruption.
Valcke was suspended last week in the wake of allegations that he had profited from World Cup tickets sold above face value. He denies the allegations.
Fifa said in a statement on Friday that it had been cooperating with the OAG since 27 May 2015 and ?has complied with all requests for documents, data and other information. We will continue this level of cooperation throughout the investigation.
?Today, at the home of Fifa, representatives from the Office of the Swiss attorney general conducted interviews and gathered documents pursuant to its investigation. Fifa facilitated these interviews as part of our ongoing cooperation.?
The Fifa inquiries
There are two separate inquiries currently underway:
US department of justice: American prosecutors shocked world football in May on the eve of Fifa?s Congress when Swiss police arrested seven Fifa officials in dawn raids.
Later that day, attorney general Loretta Lynch outlined allegations of a $100m corruption case that included charges of racketeering, money laundering and fraud against 14 individuals, including nine current or former Fifa executives. Of the 14 Fifa officials indicted in May, 13 have been arrested of whom three have been charged in US courtrooms and 10 await extradition.
Swiss attorney general: Michael Lauber, the Swiss attorney general, seized documents and data from Fifa HQ on the same day as the Baur au Lac arrests were made, initially as part of an investigation into the award of the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups.
But at a press conference last week, Lauber confirmed that a 2005 TV contract bearing Sepp Blatter?s signature, which appeared to sell rights to disgraced Fifa official Jack Warner at below market value, had also become part of the probe.
Lauber confirmed that among financial assets seized since 27 May were properties including apartments in the Swiss Alps and that 121 suspicious banking transactions are under investigation. It has seized 11 terabytes of data, equivalent to around 900m pages of information.
Credit: The Guardian