ZURICH, Sept 28, (AP): Sepp Blatter told his staff he has done “nothing illegal or improper” and has no immediate plans to step down, the FIFA president’s legal team said Monday. Blatter was back at FIFA headquarters three days after being interrogated by Swiss investigators at the scandal-battered governing body’s headquarters.
Blatter is expected to hand over power in February when an emergency election is held, triggered by the president’s resignation statement four days after being re-elected for a fifth, four-year term in May.
But the 79-year-old Blatter does not appear to be planning any sudden exit despite being the subject of a criminal investigation over his management of world soccer.
“President Blatter spoke to FIFA staff today and informed the staff that he was cooperating with the authorities, reiterated that he had done nothing illegal or improper and stated that he would remain as president of FIFA,” Blatter’s attorney, Richard Cullen, said in a statement.
Blatter was questioned by Swiss investigators on Friday about why FIFA paid 2 million Swiss francs (about $2 million) to UEFA President Michel Platini in 2011 for work supposedly carried out at least nine years earlier. Blatter denied wrongdoing and Platini, who is also a FIFA vice president, was only questioned as a witness.
“President Blatter on Friday shared with the Swiss authorities the fact that Platini had a valuable employment relationship with FIFA serving as an adviser to the president beginning in 1998,” Cullen said. “He explained to the prosecutors that the payments were valid compensation and nothing more and were properly accounted for within FIFA including the withholding of Social Security contributions.”
Platini wrote to UEFA members reiterating Friday’s denial of wronging while still not addressing why there was a nine-year gap between carrying out his work and receiving the payment. Platini became a FIFA adviser after running the 1998 World Cup in France until 2002 when he joined FIFA’s executive committee.
“It was a full-time job and my functions were known by all,” Platini said in the letter. “The remuneration was agreed at the time and after the initial payments were made, the final outstanding amount of 2 million Swiss Francs was paid in February of 2011.
“The income has all been fully declared by me to the authorities, in accordance with Swiss law.”
The Scottish Football Association wants answers about why it Platini was paid so long after the work was carried out.
“It is an essential piece of information that still needs to be provided,” SFA chief executive Stewart Regan responded to the letter on Twitter.
Scotland was one of the first UEFA members in July to publicly endorse Platini’s bid for the FIFA presidency. Oct 26 is the deadline for candidates, who must pass integrity checks.
Platini’s letter did not reference his election campaign, but he wrote: “I am aware these events may harm my image and my reputation and by consequence the image of UEFA.”
Also, Blatter’s statement did not reference allegations by Swiss prosecutors that the president undervalued the awarding of World Cup rights to former vice president Jack Warner.
“Because of the continuing investigation President Blatter will answer no further questions at this time,” Cullen’s statement concluded.
As FIFA was attempting to contain the latest escalation in the corruption scandal, meetings shaping leaders of the future who can potentially salvage the body’s reputation were being held at headquarters.
FIFA’s women’s leadership development program is intended to spur gender equality at the world body and its regional affiliates. Thirty-five aspiring female leaders have come to Zurich to learn from 16 mentors.
“Undoubtedly, FIFA’s decision making in the future will be better if more women are included at the top table,” FIFA executive committee member Moya Dodd told The Associated Press.
The former Australia player is one of three female members of the FIFA’s ruling body, which has lost several executives in recent years because of corruption.
“I think that the future leadership of football needs to be drawn from a more diverse base than it’s been in the past,” Dodd said from inside FIFA HQ. “It is important for people who aspire to contribute to the game to see there are opportunities and paths forward.”