Thursday 14 December 2017

Blatter and two others 'enriched themselves' with €70m

Ex-president Sepp Blatter. Photo: AP
Ex-president Sepp Blatter. Photo: AP

Dean Gray

Three former Fifa officials, including ex-president Sepp Blatter, conducted a "coordinated effort to enrich themselves" which cost the organisation €70m in the last five years, it has been revealed.

Attorneys conducting an internal investigation of wrongdoing at football's world governing body announced that Blatter (below), former secretary general Jerome Valcke and former deputy secretary general Markus Kattner, who also served as Fifa's chief financial officer, received the compensation awards from 2011 to 2015.

Attorneys Quinn Emanuel, following the examination of millions of documents, found contracts which benefited Blatter, Valcke and Kattner were amended on multiple occasions, often on the same day and at dubious times.

Some contract provisions violate Swiss law - clauses ensuring full payment over the full term, even in the event of dismissal, plus the covering of legal costs - while the length of the deals and the remuneration packages were deemed to be over-inflated.

"The evidence appears to reveal a coordinated effort by three former top officials of Fifa to enrich themselves through annual salary increases, World Cup bonuses and other incentives totalling more than 79m Swiss francs - in just the last five years," said Bill Burck, a partner with Quinn Emanuel.

Fifa has shared the information disclosed with Swiss and United States law enforcement agencies, whose combined investigation into the circumstances surrounding the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has widened and unearthed a barrage of alleged corruption.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who was elected in February, is cooperating fully with the investigation alongside Fifa legal director Marco Villiger, the attorneys said.

Infantino and Villiger were this week alleged to have acted to destroy recordings of a Fifa council meeting in Mexico last month. Those claims have been strongly denied by sources within Fifa, who insist the recordings remain available.

Fifa this week said no formal disciplinary proceedings were active involving Infantino following a report in Germany.

Fifa made the disclosures relating to Blatter, Valcke and Kattner on the day it was revealed its Zurich headquarters were searched by law enforcement officials in the latest raid over football-related corruption.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) conducted the search on Thursday and seized documents and electronic data.

Kattner's office was searched. He was dismissed by Fifa on May 23 for breaches of his fiduciary duties.

Valcke and Kattner had lengthy contracts renewed days before the 2011 presidential election, when Blatter was running against Mohammed Bin Hamman.

The pair's eight-and-a-half year deals included generous severance terms in case of their employment being terminated, which was likely had Blatter not been re-elected.

Reforms in 2013, which included the formation of a compensation subcommittee, saw efforts made to reduce Blatter's bonus and salary, but payments to Valcke and Kattner were not addressed by these reforms.

Two provisions in the 2011 contracts violate Swiss law, as Valcke and Kattner would receive payment for the full value of their contracts even if they were terminated with just cause.

There was also an indemnification clause that would force Fifa to pay all their legal fees and costs, even if they were found guilty of wrongdoing.

Those clauses remained in an updated Kattner contract, signed four days after the US Department of Justice's indictment against football officials and a day after Blatter's re-election in May 2015.

Blatter stood down soon afterwards - and Infantino was later appointed as his permanent successor.

Irish Independent

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