Sepp Blatter

FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures du
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Blatter expects to be at FIFA election even if still banned

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GENEVA (AP) Sepp Blatter expects to attend the FIFA election on Feb. 26 even though his appeal against an eight-year ban is unlikely to be resolved by then.

Blatter’s spokesman, Thomas Renggli, told The Associated Press on Friday that the suspended FIFA president “should be present at the congress.”

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Blatter and his lawyers believe FIFA rules mean only a meeting of the 209 member federations who elect a president can formally remove one.

“Only the congress, according to the statutes, can put Mr. Blatter out of his mandate,” Renggli said in a telephone interview.

Renggli also clarified the legal timetable for Blatter to challenge his ban by the FIFA ethics committee.

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Blatter is scheduled return to FIFA headquarters on Feb. 16 for an appeal committee hearing, and an immediate ruling is expected. However, if the appeal panel confirms Blatter’s ban, it could take weeks to write the detailed verdict, Renggli said.

Case documents are needed in hand before appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport can be filed and registered.

The FIFA ethics committee banned Blatter last month for a range of charges, including conflict of interest in approving $2 million of FIFA money for Michel Platini in 2011.

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Platini is also appealing against his eight-year ban for accepting the money as uncontracted salary when working as Blatter’s presidential adviser from 1999-2002. The case, which emerged last September, knocked Platini out of an election race he was favored to win.

Switzerland’s attorney general opened criminal proceedings against Blatter for suspected mismanagement and misappropriation. The investigation relates to the Platini payment and FIFA selling undervalued 2010 and 2014 World Cup broadcasting rights for the Caribbean in 2005 to then-FIFA vice president Jack Warner.

Platini was also questioned in September and has a status of “between a witness and an accused person,” attorney general Michael Lauber has said.

The Swiss investigation into FIFA’s business began in 2014 when FIFA lodged a criminal complaint about potential money laundering based on former ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia’s report into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

AP: FIFA prosecutors to appeal for tougher Blatter, Platini bans

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MAY 29: FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter (L) shakes hands with UEFA president Michel Platini during the 65th FIFA Congress at Hallenstadion on May 29, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images
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ZURICH (AP) — FIFA ethics prosecutors will appeal to increase the 8-year bans for Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, arguing they are too lenient.

The counter-challenge revives the prospect of life bans. Blatter and Platini have said they will also appeal.

The ethics committee’s investigatory chamber says it “intends to appeal” the sanctions imposed last month by four FIFA ethics judges.

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FIFA’s appeals committee has previously imposed a life ban after judge Joachim Eckert decided on an 8-year sanction. In 2013, then-FIFA executive committee member Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka was expelled for bribery after then-prosecutor Michael Garcia appealed.

Blatter and Platini were banned for accepting or receiving gifts and conflicts of interest.

They deny wrongdoing over Blatter approving a $2 million payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011 as backdated salary.

Swiss authorities hand over FIFA evidence to US investigators

Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter, UEFA and FIFA
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BERN, Switzerland (AP) — Swiss authorities handed over bank documents related to the FIFA corruption scandal to their American counterparts on Wednesday.

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The Federal Office of Justice said the package of evidence will be used in the criminal investigation against several soccer officials suspected of bribery and other offenses.

“It relates to bank accounts allegedly used for bribes connected with the grant of marketing rights to soccer tournaments in Latin America and the USA,” the Swiss office said in a statement.

Records related to sports marketing agency ISL have also been requested. The FOJ said the documents they have are being reviewed to determine if they are relevant to the American investigation.

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The American probe into the ISL scandal, which plunged FIFA into crisis at the time, is believed to be targeting suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter. ISL was found to have routinely bribed top sports officials, including Blatter predecessor Joao Havelange, before collapsing into criminal bankruptcy in 2001.

Earlier this month, Blatter was suspended for eight years by the FIFA ethics committee in a separate case. UEFA President Michel Platini was also suspended.

The Swiss authorities also said they froze $80 million in assets in 13 bank accounts. They said they will remain frozen until legal proceedings have been concluded.

[ MORE: World Cup votes sparked probes that took down Blatter, Platini ]

“The U.S. authorities can apply to have these assets handed over if they have a legally valid and enforceable seizure ruling from a U.S. court,” the FOJ said.

FIFA has said it is cooperating to provide “all relevant information” to the ongoing American and Swiss investigations.

The Swiss also said four men in their custody, some of them arrested in May during an early morning raid at a luxury Zurich hotel, continue to oppose extradition to the United States.

Report: Valcke, Blatter’s No. 2, faces lifetime ban from FIFA

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If there’s any semblance of innocence inside of Sepp Blatter, it would come alongside a shocking amount of naivete for FIFA’s disgraced president.

It would also likely mean that Blatter’s No. 2 carried an even darker resume than we suspected, and that part seems more true by the day.

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Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s most senior official outside of Blatter, could be done with soccer forever. That’s the report from Bloomberg Business when it comes to the 55-year-old Frenchman.

From Bloomberg:

Last week, a forensic investigations company sent the investigative arm of the ethics committee a dossier of more than 100 pages that outlines several breaches of FIFA’s ethics code by Valcke, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The report on Valcke’s conduct would lead to a lifetime ban from soccer for Valcke should the allegations be accepted by FIFA’s adjudicatory panel, said the person, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The report puts Valcke in trouble in both North and South America, and alleges fraud on many counts.

World Cup votes sparked probes which downed Blatter, Platini

Michel Platini & Sepp Blatter, FIFA
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LONDON (AP) After five years of tumult, the far-reaching fallout from FIFA’s decision to send the World Cup to Russia and Qatar has brought down another two voters – Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini – but not the hosts themselves.

No FIFA executive has been directly punished over how and why they voted in December 2010. And investigators have failed to unearth anything that warrants stripping Russia and Qatar of soccer’s showpiece tournaments in 2018 and 2022 respectively.

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But the vote had a big part to play in the eight-year bans handed out Monday to FIFA president Blatter and Platini, a FIFA vice president and head of European soccer’s ruling body, UEFA.

The punishments given by FIFA’s ethics committee stemmed from financial inquiries that were sparked by suspicions about the 2010 vote, when two host countries were selected concurrently for the first time.

For Blatter, Monday’s verdicts also contained a bitter irony.

Blatter himself had initiated the phase in the investigation that ultimately led to him being exiled by FIFA’s ethics judge from the organization he had run for 17 years.

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Facing a fresh wave of pressure and suspicion around FIFA in November 2014, Blatter lodged a criminal complaint with Swiss authorities, authorizing them to receive the full secret World Cup bidding investigation he claims to have never seen.

“If we had anything to hide, we would hardly be taking this matter to the Office of the Attorney General … (it) shows that FIFA is not opposed to transparency,” Blatter said at the time with typical bravado.

It’s a decision Blatter will be regretting, even if he had little control over a move requested by FIFA judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.

As federal prosecutors started to trawl through some 900 pages of FIFA evidence amassed by American attorney Michael Garcia they switched their focus to bank accounts linked to the 2010 voters.

In May, on the day Zurich police arrested FIFA officials on behalf of their American counterparts investigating soccer corruption, Swiss authorities also seized data from the governing body’s headquarters across town. By that point, Swiss financial institutions had already handed over bank documents to the attorney general, who was building a case against FIFA officials.

As bank accounts were frozen, forensic software flagged up as suspicious a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) Platini received from Blatter in early 2011.

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“How they found out? This is not a secret because Swiss banks are obliged to notify the Swiss authorities for six years now since all these financial controls through a Swiss organization called FINMA,” was Blatter’s assessment on Monday about the discovery of the payment that remained a public secret until recently.

“They are obliged if they feel a payment is something high in a personal account they have to (inform). So in 2011, Michel Platini received in his personal account by FIFA this 2 million Swiss francs and then they have given this information to the Swiss authorities.”

As an executive committee was concluding in September, prosecutors pounced on FIFA HQ and immediately questioned Blatter and Platini about the payment. Blatter was declared a suspect while Platini was considered “between a witness and an accused person.”

The seriousness of the allegations meant FIFA had to suspend two of its most powerful officials – Platini serves as a vice president, alongside his UEFA presidency – as a full ethics investigation was conducted in parallel to the criminal case.

FIFA’s ethics process concluded on Monday when Blatter and Platini received eight-year soccer bans for the payment. The judge described as “not convincing” their claim that the transaction was settling salary owed to the former France captain for work carried out as Blatter’s adviser up to 2002.

As Blatter stepped up his fight against his humiliating removal from FIFA, the 79-year-old Swiss was left to rue how differently the last five years would have unfolded had the World Cup vote go his way.

According to Blatter: No Qatar; no investigations delving into FIFA.

Blatter’s vision of delivering the 2018 World Cup to Russia for the first time was accepted by the now-tainted executive committee, but then – rather than going to a more familiar powerhouse in the United States as he wanted – the 2022 vote was astonishingly won by Qatar. Platini was among those who voted for the tiny desert nation.

“Can you imagine if this (Russia-U.S.) had worked out? We wouldn’t be here today,” Blatter said Monday as he digested being banned by the institution he helped to grow into a commercial giant. “But it didn’t work for different reasons.”

And the domino effect is not over. Being banished from soccer is the immediate humiliation, but Blatter and Platini could yet face criminal prosecutions with the attorney general in no hurry to rush the case.

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports