SWISS prosecutors have opened criminal proceedings against FIFA president Sepp Blatter and questioned UEFA president Michel Platini on a day of stunning developments at football’s world governing body.
The Swiss attorney general’s office issued a statement saying Blatter is suspected of criminal mismanagement or misappropriation over a TV rights deal he signed with former Caribbean football chief Jack Warner in 2005.
He is also suspected of “a disloyal payment” in 2011 of two millions Swiss francs (£1.35million on current exchange rates) to Platini for work allegedly carried out by the Frenchman between 1999 and 2002.
Platini has been seen as the favourite to succeed Blatter as president of FIFA.
Officers from the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) interrogated Blatter at FIFA headquarters following a FIFA executive committee meeting on Friday. His office was searched and data seized.
Blatter has repeatedly insisted he is innocent of any wrongdoing amid allegations of scandal involving FIFA.
Platini’s alleged involvement casts a shadow over his hopes of succeeding Blatter, who is understood to be deciding whether to step down immediately rather than stick to his original plan of staying on until February 26 2016. A “disloyal payment” is one that goes against the best interests of the organisation - and the question Platini will have to answer is why the alleged payment was not made until nine years down the line.
An OAG statement said: “Swiss criminal proceedings against the president of FIFA, Mr Joseph Blatter, have been opened on 24 September 2015 on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and - alternatively - misappropriation.
“On the one hand, the OAG suspects that on 12 September 2005 Mr Joseph Blatter has signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union (with Jack Warner as the president at this time); this contract was unfavourable for FIFA. On the other hand, there is as suspicion that, in the implementation of this agreement, Joseph Blatter also violated his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of FIFA and/or FIFA Marketing & TV AG.
“Additionally, Mr Joseph Blatter is suspected of a disloyal payment of 2 million CHF (Swiss francs) to Michel Platini, president of UEFA, at the expense of FIFA, which was allegedly made for work performed between January 1999 and June 2002 ; this payment was executed in February 2011.”
The statement added: “On 25 September 2015, representatives of the OAG interrogated the defendant Joseph Blatter following a meeting of the FIFA executive committee. At the same time, Michel Platini was heard as a person asked to provide information.
“Furthermore, the OAG conducted on September 25 a house search at FIFA headquarters with the support of the Federal Criminal Police. The office of the FIFA president has been searched and data seized.
“As for all defendants, the presumption of innocence applies for Mr Joseph Blatter.”
FIFA had cancelled a news conference at its FIFA headquarters at the last minute on Friday.
Around 170 media had been accredited for the news conference in Zurich and were only told of the cancellation five minutes before it was due to start.
It followed a FIFA executive committee on Friday morning where a number of decisions were taken. These included moving the venue of the next meeting from Japan to Zurich - Japan has an extradition treaty with the USA and Blatter and several other officials have been wary of possible arrest.
The committee also ratified a decision taken in March that the winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022 will be held over 28 days between November 21 and December 18.
FIFA said it was co-operating with the investigation by the attorney general’s office.
A statement said: “Since 27 May 2015, FIFA has been co-operating with the Office of the Swiss Attorney General (OAG) and has complied with all requests for documents, data and other information. We will continue this level of co-operation throughout the investigation. Today, at the Home of FIFA, representatives from the Office of the Swiss Attorney General conducted interviews and gathered documents pursuant to its investigation.
“FIFA facilitated these interviews as part of our ongoing co-operation. We will have no further comment on the matter as it is an active investigation.”