Amid Blat­ter res­ig­na­tion, FIFA probes ramp up


A day af­ter an­nounc­ing his de­ci­sion to re­sign, Sepp Blat­ter was back at work at FIFA head­quar­ters on Wed­nes­day as the worst cor­rup­tion cri­sis in the gov­ern­ing body’s 111-year his­tory con­tin­ued to un­fold.

Interpol added six men with ties to FIFA to its most wanted list, while South African of­fi­cials de­nied they made a US$10 mil­lion bribe to se­cure the 2010 World Cup.

Blat­ter spoke to FIFA staff for about 10 min­utes on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, re­turn­ing to the same au­di­to­rium where he de­liv­ered his res­ig­na­tion speech a day ear­lier. Staff de­scribed him as be­ing emo­tional, and said he re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion.

Else­where, Interpol got in­volved. The in­ter­na­tional po­lice force, based in Lyon, France, is- sued an alert for two for­mer FIFA of­fi­cials and four ex­ec­u­tives on charges in­clud­ing rack­e­teer­ing and cor­rup­tion.

Two of the men, for­mer FIFA Vice Pres­i­dent Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and for­mer ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Ni­co­las Leoz of Paraguay, have been ar­rested in their home coun­ties. Warner has since been re­leased and Leoz is un­der house ar­rest. The Interpol “red no­tice” means they risk ar­rest any­where they travel.

In South Africa, Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula said the gov­ern­ment wanted to “cat­e­gor­i­cally deny” that the coun­try paid any bribes to win the right to host the 2010 tour­na­ment.

Mbalula char­ac­ter­ized the US$10 mil­lion as an “above-board pay­ment” to help soc­cer devel­op­ment in the Caribbean re­gion.

The money, which went into a fund con­trolled by Warner, is part of the U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tion into soc­cer cor­rup­tion. That probe led to the ar­rest of seven soc­cer of­fi­cials in Zurich last week, kick­ing off the FIFA scan­dal and even­tu­ally lead­ing to Blat­ter’s de­ci­sion to step down.

Warner and Leoz were among 14 peo­ple in­dicted in the U.S. as part of the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

U. S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch, speak­ing in Latvia on Wed­nes­day at a meet­ing with EU jus­tice min­is­ters, de­clined to com­ment on Blat­ter’s res­ig­na­tion or whether he was him­self un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It’s an open case and so we will now be speak­ing through the courts,” Lynch said.

In a sep­a­rate probe, Swiss au­thor­i­ties have opened a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­lated to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid­ding con­tests. Rus­sia won the right to host the 2018 tour­na­ment and Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup.

The Swiss at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said Blat­ter was not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but said it has opened crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against “per­sons un­known” for mon­ey­laun­der­ing.

Blat­ter said Tues­day he would re­main pres­i­dent un­til a new elec­tion can be set up, which FIFA said could be some­time be­tween De­cem­ber and March.

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