FIFA on Wednesday said it had fired Sepp Blatter’s former right-hand man, Jerome Valcke, the latest casualty in a multi-layered scandal that has brought down the most powerful figures in world soccer.
Valcke was FIFA’s general-secretary for nearly a decade, working alongside the world body’s then-president Blatter, who has been banned for eight years over an ethics violation.
Valcke, 55, was himself facing a possible nine-year ban sought by FIFA investigators over his alleged role in a scheme to sell 2014 World Cup tickets on the black market.
In a statement, FIFA said his employment contract had been “terminated,” even before a verdict in the ticket case was decided.
“The FIFA emergency committee decided on 9 January 2016 to dismiss Jerome Valcke from the position of FIFA secretary-general with immediate effect,” the statement said.
Valcke’s US-based lawyer Barry Berke said his client “remains confident that he will be fully vindicated and history will recognize all of his contributions to the sport he loves.”
He “is proud of all that was accomplished for the game of football during his long tenure as secretary-general,” Berke said in an e-mail sent to reporters.
FIFA said that Markus Kattner will continue to serve as acting general-secretary, the body’s No. 2 post.
Later on Wednesday, former FIFA vice president Alfredo Hawit pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in a New York court just hours after being extradited from Switzerland.
US prosecutors allege that 64-year-old Honduran Hawit accepted and laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes as general-secretary of the Honduran federation between 2008 and 2014.
Hawit entered a plea of not guilty through his lawyer. The defendant looked pale and ill and stood slightly stooped in the federal court in Brooklyn, following the proceedings through a court-appointed interpreter.
The Honduran was to appear in court again yesterday, when conditions for bail were to be discussed.
He is the fifth FIFA official extradited by Switzerland to the US in connection with the corruption scandal that has rocked world soccer since May last year.
FIFA first suspended Valcke on Sept. 17, when ethics committee investigators began probing the ticketing scheme. The suspension was renewed on Wednesday last week.
Investigators wrapped up that inquiry last week and called for a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs (US$99,000), along with the ban.
Valcke has also been linked to a US$10 million payment made by South Africa to corruption-tainted former Caribbean football chief Jack Warner.
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