FIFA executives ponder criminal proceedings against Blatter

 

Eleven FIFA executive members have hired a lawyer to see if criminal proceedings can be taken over the corruption allegations swirling around world football leader Sepp Blatter, one of his top opponents said this morning.

Chung Mong-Joon, head of the South Korean organising committee for the World Cup finals which start in three weeks, said the "Blattergate" scandal may require criminal investigation.

Accusations against Blatter, which he has strongly denied, have plunged the international football federation into a major crisis just ahead of the opening of its showcase event in South Korea and Japan on May 31.

Chung told a press conference he had joined six members of the FIFA executive committee from Europe and four from Africa in signing an accord Tuesday to hire the lawyer.

Chung said the lawyer would study whether, under Swiss law, criminal or civil proceedings can be taken over corruption accusations made against the FIFA leadership.

He did not name the signatories but said: "Mr. Blatter has overstepped his authority. He has acted without the mandate of the FIFA executive committee, doling out personal favors at FIFA's expense.

"Such abuse of his authority and misuse of FIFA funds may require criminal investigation."

FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen accused Blatter of corruption, financial irregularities and diversion of FIFA funds at an executive meeting on May 3, Chung said.

"The alleged 'Blattergate' is scandalous. It has severely damaged FIFA's reputation and credibility in the world. Only a thorough investigation can clear the way to restore FIFA's reputation."

Chung, Lennart Johansson, head of the European ruling body UEFA, and three other FIFA vice presidents have called on Blatter to resign.

Blatter has said the allegations against him are "bizarre and unfounded" and that they are part of a campaign against him ahead of the FIFA presidential election at a congress in Seoul on May 28 and 29.

Blatter will face African Football Confederaton (CAF) leader Issa Hayatou in the election. Chung is backing Hayatou.

"It was a great shock to most of us to learn the true extent of Mr. Blatter's abuses of the office of FIFA president," Chung said.

"I am ashamed to say that we, the responsible members of the executive committee have allowed Mr. Blatter to get away with this type of behaviour in the past."

Chung was the only Asian member of the FIFA executive to sign the accord hiring the lawyer. He said he had explained the project to other Asian members but they had refused.

Mohammad bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president and FIFA executive member from Qatar, is a Blatter ally and reportedly went with him to North Korea this week.

"Given the current circumstances of FIFA, all Asian FIFA members ought to be prudent," Chung warned. "We need to exercise caution and maintain a clear distinction between personal ties and public obligation."

But Chung vowed the FIFA battle would not be allowed to damage the World Cup finals when he and Blatter could be side by side at the opening ceremony in Seoul, if Blatter is re-elected at the congress.

"I will definitely go the airport to greet him and we will provide diplomatic and protocol courtesies due to all FIFA members coming to Korea. Blatter will be treated as president as long as he is president," he said. - AFP