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Saturday 7 December 2019

Sepp Blatter and two other ex-officials 'paid themselves millions' - Fifa

Swiss authorities carried out a search of Fifa's headquarters
Swiss authorities carried out a search of Fifa's headquarters

Fifa has revealed that former officials Sepp Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Markus Kattner awarded themselves raises and World Cup bonuses totalling 80 million US dollars (£55 million) over their last five years in office.

Some of the contracted payments appear to break Swiss law, and evidence will be given to American and Swiss federal prosecutors who are investigating corruption implicating the world soccer body, lawyers for Fifa said.

"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 79 million Swiss francs - in just the last five years," said Bill Burck of Quinn Emanuel, the US law firm retained by Fifa during its corruption crisis.

Fifa revealed details of the contracts of its former president Mr Blatter, fired former secretary general Mr Valcke and fired finance director Mr Kattner one day after police raided Fifa to seize evidence for the Swiss investigation.

Mr Blatter's lawyers said his payment arrangements at Fifa were above board.

"We look forward to showing Fifa that Mr Blatter's compensation payments were proper, fair and in line with the heads of major professional sports leagues around the world," said US lawyer Richard Cullen in a statement made on behalf of the former head of world football.

Mr Blatter got a 12 million Swiss francs (£8.5 million) bonus after the successful 2014 World Cup in Brazil and would have been due another 12 million Swiss francs for completing his 2015-19 presidential term, the contracts reveal.

The secretly agreed bonuses were significantly more than Mr Blatter's base salary - three million Swiss francs (£2 million) in 2015 - which Fifa published in March.

Mr Valcke got a two million US dollars (£1.4 million) basic salary before being fired, but was awarded a 10 million dollar (£6.9 million) World Cup bonus for 2014 and was due 11 million dollars (£7.5 million) from the 2018 tournament in Russia.

The police raid on Thursday included searches in the office of Mr Kattner, who was fired last week.

"Documents and electronic data were seized and will now be examined to determine their relevance to the ongoing proceedings," the Swiss federal prosecution office said on Friday.

Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber opened criminal proceedings against Mr Blatter last September, and against Mr Valcke in March.

Both are suspected of criminal mismanagement of Fifa money. Mr Blatter and Mr Valcke deny wrongdoing but were banned for six and 12 years, respectively, by Fifa's ethics committee.

No criminal proceedings have yet been opened against Mr Kattner, who joined Fifa as finance director in 2003 and got bonuses totalling seven million Swiss francs (£5 million) from the past two World Cups.

At the height of Fifa's crisis last year, Mr Kattner was given further cash guarantees from Fifa's five billion dollars (£3.5 million) income from the 2014 World Cup.

On May 31 2015 - four days after the US and Swiss investigations were revealed by police raids on Zurich's Baur au Lac hotel and Fifa - Mr Kattner's contract was extended through 2023 with extra clauses guaranteeing termination pay and indemnification for legal fees and restitution claims.

"These two provisions appear to violate mandatory Swiss law," Fifa said on Friday.

Mr Kattner's payments were all contracted and approved by the compensation committee Fifa created in 2013 and known to Fifa's auditors, KMPG, a spokesperson for the German official said in a statement.

"Additionally, Fifa will refer the matter of these contracts and payments to the Ethics Committee for its review," Fifa said in a statement.

Any ethics investigation could affect two senior officials at the heart of Fifa's financial operation. Finance committee chairman Issa Hayatou, the interim Fifa president while Mr Blatter was suspended, and former audit panel chairman Domenico Scala both approved at least one of the contracts revealed on Friday.

Three weeks after new Fifa President Gianni Infantino claimed that "the crisis is over," the turmoil rocking football's world governing body continues.

Mr Infantino has been criticised for a breakdown in his relationship with Mr Scala, who resigned on May 14. The Fifa president privately described as "insulting" a salary offer from Scala, reported as two million dollars (£1.4 million) without bonuses.

Since Mr Kattner's firing on May 23, German language newspapers have been fed a series of leaked minutes from meetings and Fifa emails which sought to turn scrutiny on Infantino.

Elected four months ago to replace Mr Blatter, Mr Infantino pledged reform and a changed culture at Fifa and was expected to face resistance from insiders. The 45-year-old Swiss official also arrived with a reputation as a critic of Fifa during seven years as secretary general of European soccer body UEFA.

Mr Infantino has not publicly criticised Fifa's former regime but the contracts revealed on Friday by its top legal advisers seem to have exposed a culture of secrecy and entitlement.

Mr Valcke and Mr Kattner signed eight-year contract extensions on April 30, 2011 - five weeks before Mr Blatter was due to contest a bitterly fought presidential election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.

Mr Blatter and Mr Valcke did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

PA Media

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