Fri, Sep 25, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Blatter under fresh fire ahead of FIFA meeting in Zurich

AFP, ZURICH, Switzerland

From corruption investigations in the US and Switzerland to the sudden suspension of his right-hand man, FIFA president Sepp Blatter can expect a barrage of questions when he faces the media today.

Blatter’s press conference, his first appearance since the removal of FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, is to follow a two-day executive committee meeting where the seemingly endless scandals at world soccer’s tainted governing body are on the agenda.

Since the executive committee previously met, much of the news surrounding FIFA has been less than positive.

On Wednesday, the Swiss Ministry of Justice approved the extradition to the US of Rafael Esquivel, a Venezuelan ex-FIFA official who was among those arrested in a dawn raid in Zurich in May.

Switzerland has also approved the transfer to US jurisdiction of former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo, a Uruguayan, with extradition decisions on four other suspects due in the coming days.

Last week also saw Valcke’s sacking on allegations that he participated in a massive black-market ticket-selling scheme surrounding the World Cup in Brazil last year.

Valcke denies the allegations and has vowed to fight them.

Three days before Valcke was dismissed, US attorney general Loretta Lynch said her sweeping investigation into decades of graft at FIFA was expanding and was likely to lead to more people being charged.

It was Lynch who uncorked the crisis at FIFA in May, when her office unsealed indictments against 14 people — nine soccer officials and five sports marketing executives — accused of involvement in a bribery scandal worth more than US$150 million since 1991.

Speaking next to Lynch in Zurich last week, Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber said his separate probe into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had led to assets being seized, including flats in the Swiss Alps.

Lauber has not given any indication as to who might be charged in the Swiss inquiry, but FIFA officials have conceded that if there is clear evidence that bribes were paid during the bidding, both Russia and Qatar could lose hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively.

Lauber made clear that his investigation had “not yet reached halftime.”

Blatter’s press conference at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich is set for 2pm today, following the executive committee meeting, which opened yesterday afternoon.

The committee was expected to hear reports on preparations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

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