The corruption scandal around FIFA, the body that governs world soccer, moves ever closer to its embattled president, Sepp Blatter.
The Guardian reported Wednesday that Blatter is about to be suspended in connection with criminal probes into corruption at the organisation, citing a long-time FIFA adviser.
It quoted Klaus Stöhlker, a Zurich-based PR executive with business ties to FIFA, as saying that the investigatory chamber of the organisation’s ethics committee has recommended Blatter be suspended provisionally for 90 days. The recommendation comes only weeks after Swiss prosecutors opened an investigation into Blatter for suspected “dishonest payments” while president of the body. Prosecutors are looking into the sale of TV rights to FIFA tournaments in the Caribbean, and also into a payment of over $1 million to European soccer head Michel Platini, which was made years after the work it was purportedly tied to.
“What we know is that president Blatter was told he could be suspended for 90 days. The ethics committee has not taken any key decisions, they are waiting for further investigations. There is no guilt impugned,” said Stöhlker.
The suspension is still not a done deal, according to The Guardian. It has to be confirmed by the adjudicatory chamber of the ethics committee, which is chaired by a staunch Blatter ally, the German lawyer Hans-Joachim Eckert. Eckert had been responsible last year for ensuring that only a massively diluted version of a report on corruption at FIFA by U.S. lawyer Michael Garcia was published. His actions led to Garcia resigning his commission and claiming that FIFA’s account of his report seriously misrepresented his findings.
Blatter has already said he will step down in February after 20 years at the helm of FIFA. However, he has angered many soccer officials and, more importantly, FIFA’s biggest sponsors by refusing to go any earlier. McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO) both called on Blatter last week to step down immediately.
Blatter wasn’t among the FIFA officials named by the Department of Justice in the mass indictment in May that exposed the scale of alleged wrongdoing there.