FIFA President to Address Media as Scandals Widen

Fifa president Sepp Blatter was set to face the media on Friday, as the scandals that surround him widen at a seemingly relentless pace.

Blatter’s press conference following Fifa’s executive committee meeting was always going to be closely watched, with both the US and Swiss justice departments carrying out major investigations into corruption at world football.

But events over the last two weeks have raised the stakes.

On Thursday, Switzerland’s Attorney General Michael Lauber’s office said Fifa had agreed to hand over the emails of suspended secretary general Jerome Valcke, evidence Lauber had demanded as part of an investigation into World Cup bidding.

That announcement came hours after Lauber’s office said Fifa had indicated it would only hand over the emails if certain conditions were met.

Those conditions were not disclosed and there was no comment as to what ultimately led Fifa to unseal the emails.

Fifa said only that it “fully supports” the Swiss investigation and had cooperated with the attorney general since his inquiry was launched in May.

A week before Fifa agreed to the email release, football’s governing body put the Frenchman on indefinite leave over accusations he agreed to let World Cup tickets be sold at vastly inflated prices.

Valcke, who had been Blatter’s right-hand man, fiercely denies the allegations.

Aside from a possible black market ticket scheme, Valcke had already been implicated in an alleged $10 million bribe payment reportedly made by South Africa in connection with its hosting of the 2010 World Cup.

The Swiss investigation is focused on whether bribes were paid during bidding for 2018 and 2022 tournaments — awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

If clear evidence of misconduct emerges, both countries could be stripped of their hosting rights, Fifa officials have said.

– More charges coming –

Three days before Valcke was suspended, Lauber and his US counterpart Loretta Lynch made clear that their investigations were nowhere near complete.

Lauber said assets, including flats in the Swiss Alps, had been seized in the probe which he described as “not yet near half-time.”

Valcke’s emails will add to the troves of electronic data previously confiscated by Swiss investigators.

Lauber has not named any individuals who could face criminal charges, and there was no indication that Valcke is the main target in the case.

Speaking alongside Lauber in Zurich, Fifa’s home, Lynch said her case had also expanded since May, when the US indicted 14 people — nine Fifa officials and five sports marketing executives — over bribery worth more than $150 million (134 million euros) dating back to 1991.

Lynch told reporters that more individuals and entities were likely to be charged.

Neither attorney general has commented on whether charges were imminent against the Fifa president, who insists he was unaware of any graft that took place under his watch.

– Extradition decisions looming –

Seven of the people indicted by Lynch were arrested in a dawn raid in Zurich in May.

One, ex-Fifa vice president Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, agreed to extradition and was sent the US.

The other six challenged a transfer to American jurisdiction, but one by one they appear to be losing those fights.

Last week, the Swiss justice ministry approved the extradition of Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Uruguay’s Eugenio Figueredo, both former top officials within world football.

Decision on the extradition requests for the remaining four suspects are expected in the coming days.

Blatter’s press conference at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) may also prove to be one of his last, as the embattled Fifa president has agreed to step down following a special election in February.

© AFP

Tongai Mwenje

Tongai Mwenje is a Senior Editor with Zimbabwe's largest online sports magazine Sportbrief www.sportbrief.co.zw. He has been writing professionally since 2012 and currently writes for technology and sport blogs. He has vast experience in digital marketing, sports reporting and analysis. He is also a Sports and Technology columnist with Financial Gazette Online Sports Column and Technology Magazine respectively.

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