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.