Fifa corruption: Sepp Blatter office records seized, 2026 World Cup on hold

Swiss authorities have taken records from the Zurich office of Fifa president Sepp Blatter as part of their investigation into corruption at world football’s governing body.

The development into the investigation of scandal-plagued Fifa came as the organisation’s secretary general, Jerome Valcke, announced a postponement of the bidding process for the right to host the 2026 World Cup.

Valcke said during an event on Wednesday (NZT Thursday) in Russia, the 2018 tournament host, that it would be “nonsense” to start the bidding process given the turmoil Fifa was in.

Fifa Secretary General Jerome Valcke speaks at a news conference in Samara, Russia.

The decision on who hosts the 2026 finals had been due to be made in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

The FBI are investigating bribery and corruption at Fifa, including scrutiny of how the World Cup hosting rights were awarded to Russia and Qatar, which is due to host the finals in 2022.

Swiss authorities are conducting their own probe into suspected mismanagement and money laundering in connection with the award of the two tournaments.

The Swiss Attorney General (OAG) confirmed that “Fifa handed over today seized IT data to the OAG”.

“As already communicated, the OAG has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown,” a spokesman said.

A source close to the Swiss investigation said records from Blatter’s office were part of the probe. The BBC said data was also taken from the offices of Valcke and Fifa’s head of finance.

The OAG, which took data and documents from Fifa last month, will speak with Blatter and other officials if they are of interest to its investigation, the spokesman said.

Fifa confirmed it had over the data.

The extent of the turmoil engulfing Fifa was apparent in an emotional outburst by the usually composed Valcke, who said he was being destroyed by the media in his native France and gave a theatrical defence of his decision to sign off on a US$10 million (NZ$14m) payment at the centre of the US bribery investigation.

Waving his pen in front of journalists, a visibly impatient Valcke asked: “You want me to take this pen and to hit my head and say ‘Hey! I have been stupid, I should have asked many more questions?”

“You have decided that after Blatter I have to be next head to be cut?” Valcke said at a news conference in the Russian city of Samara, one of the 2018 host venues.

Blatter tendered his resignation on June 2, four days after having been re-elected for a fifth term.

Fifa meanwhile began the process of finding a replacement, saying its executive committee would meet in July to discuss dates for the Congress which will elect a new president.

VIEWS FROM EUROPE

Blatter wants to remain in office until his successor is elected in order to carry out reforms at Fifa. But there have been widespread calls for him to step down at once given the gravity of the crisis facing the 111-year-old organisation.

His announcement came less than a week after Swiss police staged a dawn raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich and arrested several officials on corruption charges filed by US prosecutors in New York.

In Paris, UEFA president Michel Platini, holding his first news conference since Blatter’s resignation, welcomed the decision to postpone the bidding for 2026.

“There is no leadership at the moment, so it’s normal that it’s suspended. It’s good,” said Platini, who has become a leading critic of Blatter and Fifa.

The German Football Association meanwhile came up with a radical plan for reform of Fifa that is likely to be resisted by many of Fifa’s members outside Europe.

Its president, Wolfgang Niersbach, said Blatter was not doing himself or football any favours by staying on.

Niersbach demanded a clean-up at Fifa and said its voting structure should be based on the “size and sporting relevance” of its member federations.

At present, each of Fifa’s 209 members has a vote, giving soccer powerhouses Germany and Brazil the same influence as tiny Pacific islands.

In an early indication that the Fifa scandal is likely to have wider legal repercussions, the Dutch city of Eindhoven said it was considering suing Fifa to recover €1.5m (NZ$2.4m) spent on the Dutch/Belgian bid for the 2018 Cup.

A lawsuit could follow if the campaign is found to have been tainted by corruption, said spokeswoman Corine van der Putten.

Source