Aaaaagh! There’s me undertaking some serious research for articles on (a) the NewFifaNow organisation; (b) the forthcoming Fifa presidential election; and (c) why I think (thought?) said election won’t happen because current incumbent Joseph “Sepp” Blatter just won’t bloody go. And the Swiss Attorney-General’s office louses it all up for me. How inconsiderate. Still, the gnomic Swiss pen-pusher is in the line of legal fire at last. It was predictable to the point of bookmakers not taking bets that former Fifa vice-president, the repugnant Jack Warner would somehow be involved in one of the matters now involving both Blatter and investigation.
Less predictable was the introduction of a new financial concept (to me, anyway), the “disloyal payment.” This was initially widely (mis)reported as a “disloyalty payment,” two million Swiss Francs to a man Blatter has spent a number of recent interviews trying to portray as worthy of such a payment, Uefa president Michel Platini. However, if “disloyalty payments” ever existed, then a lot of Fifa big cheeses could claim to be owed a lot of money. Perhaps as much as has ever been allegedly paid in kickbacks and bribes over the years. And they would, of course, be completely different to and in no way as legitimate as the annual Blatter “loyalty bonus” authorised by his presidential predecessor Joao Havelange at the end of the last century. Morally incomparable. “Disloyal” payments would appear simply to involve “disloyalty” to the best fiduciary interests of the organisation stumping up the money. The bare bones of this surely to be fast-developing story are summarised in two statements. Swiss AG Michael Lauber’s office (the OAG) said:
“Swiss criminal proceedings against the president of Fifa, Mr Joseph Blatter, have been opened on 24 September 2015 on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and – alternatively – misappropriation.
“On the one hand, the OAG suspects that on 12 September 2005 Mr Joseph Blatter has signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union (with Jack Warner as the president at this time); this contract was unfavourable for Fifa. On the other hand, there is a suspicion that, in the implementation of this agreement, Joseph Blatter also violated his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of Fifa and/or Fifa Marketing & TV AG.
“Additionally, Mr Joseph Blatter is suspected of a disloyal payment of 2 million CHF [Swiss francs] to Michel Platini, President of Uefa, at the expense of Fifa, which was allegedly made for work performed between January 1999 and June 2002; this payment was executed in February 2011.
“Representatives of the OAG interrogated the defendant Joseph Blatter following a meeting of the Fifa executive committee. At the same time, Michel Platini was heard as a person asked to provide information. As for all defendants, the presumption of innocence applies for Mr Joseph Blatter.”
“Since 27 May 2015, Fifa has been cooperating with the Office of the Swiss Attorney General (OAG) and has complied with all requests for documents, data and other information. We will continue this level of cooperation throughout the investigation.
“Today, at the Home of Fifa, representatives from the Office of the Swiss Attorney General conducted interviews and gathered documents pursuant to its investigation. Fifa facilitated these interviews as part of our ongoing cooperation. We will have no further comment on the matter as it is an active investigation.”
So. Is this the big one? Well, both legally and actually it might be too early to say. If by the time you read this, Blatter is under suspension, as common decency, precedent and company protocol dictate, it will be a surprise move towards “doing the right thing.” Early indications are that suspension will not even be a consideration unless or until he is indicted. The views of general-secretary Jerome Valcke, suspended last week pending investigation into newspaper rather than Attorney General’s Office allegations/suspicions, are unknown but can surely be guessed at.
And the legal position IS a mixture of “suspicion” and “presumption of innocence.” If anything more emerges from the initial, understandable, media frenzy, you can bet Blatter’s people will be straight into “right to a fair trial” territory. The last time I saw the words “presumption of innocence,” it was being “maintained” by Fifa in relation to the afore-mentioned repugnant Warner when he resigned from all his football positions while under “investigation.” About which I have no comment to make whatsoever.
However, the story was certainly big enough at first to be a temporary distraction from the adjacent Guardian newspaper website headline about a “cannabis forest discovered” within inhaling distance of my front door given the right wind speed and direction. So… erm… man, what was I saying? Where’s those Jaffa Cakes? Anyway, we now know why AG Lauber was so keen to update the press on September 14th about the Swiss and American authorities’ Fifa investigations. Certain facial expressions during that brief…er…briefing, which could have been put down to wind, we now know to be Lauber bursting to tell the world that Blatter was in sight but unable to do so at the time. It is legally safe to say that the current Fifa set-up looks doomed. It is, however, equally safe to say in all meanings of the word that if there is one person in this world capable of coming through such mounting pressure, it is the suspected disloyal payer Mr Joseph Blatter. There are no proverbial chickens being counted here.
You can follow Mark on Twitter by clicking here.
You can follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter by clicking here.
You can follow Twohundredpercent on Facebook by clicking here.