Fifa lodges ‘criminal mismanagement’ complaint against Sepp Blatter

Sport

Fifa has issued a complaint of “criminal mismanagement” against its former president Sepp Blatter.

The complaint, which has been sent to the Zurich prosecutor, relates to the involvement of Blatter and other former officials at the world governing body in the Fifa museum project in the Swiss city.

Blatter vehemently denies wrongdoing. “The accusations are baseless and are vehemently repudiated,” his lawyer Lorenz Erni said.

In documents seen by the PA news agency, Fifa states: “Following a detailed review of historic facts and circumstances concerning the construction and on-going operational costs of the Fifa Museum, Fifa has become aware of many serious irregularities regarding this project, which raise strong suspicions of criminal misconduct on the part of various different officials and companies associated with the matter.

“As a result, Fifa is now duty-bound to refer the matter to the Zurich prosecutor’s office for further investigation and, if necessary, prosecution.

“The criminal complaint filed by Fifa is directed against various members of the former Fifa management, including former president Joseph Blatter, as well as further ‘unknown’ potential suspects. It is suspected that these individuals may have been involved in various acts of criminal mismanagement, and possibly other related offences.”

Fifa’s deputy secretary general, Alasdair Bell, said: “Given the massive costs associated with this museum, as well as the general way of working of the previous Fifa management, a forensic audit was conducted in order to find out what really happened here.

“That audit revealed a wide range of suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature and which therefore need to be properly investigated by the relevant authorities.

“We came to the conclusion that we had no choice other than to report the case to state prosecutors, not least because the current management of Fifa also has fiduciary responsibilities to the organisation and we intend to live up to them, even if those before us dismally failed to.”

The museum project began in 2013. Two years later, amid a corruption scandal, Blatter announced his resignation from the Fifa presidency after 17 years in the role.

The documents allege the project was “deliberately mismanaged”, and point to the decision to put 140 million Swiss francs (more than £117m) into a building Fifa did not own, to lock Fifa into a rental agreement with the building’s owner – the insurance firm Swiss Life – until at least 2045 costing it a further 360m Swiss francs, and the failure to consider any other suitable properties.

The documents state that the former management of Fifa “repeatedly misled different Fifa bodies as to the cost and viability of the project”, including the existence of alternative sites.

It also alleges “grave conflicts of interest” and “suspected nepotism” in relation to the project. Swiss Life declined to comment on the matter when approached by the PA news agency, saying it was a matter for Fifa and its former executive team.

It is understood the matter will also be brought to the attention of Fifa’s independent ethics committee.

Blatter is already under criminal investigation in Switzerland over a separate matter – an alleged undue payment to the former Uefa president Michel Platini. He was issued an initial eight-year ban from football by Fifa’s ethics committee in relation to that payment, reduced to six years on appeal. That sanction was upheld by the court of arbitration for sport. Platini and Blatter have continued to maintain they did nothing wrong.