By Rishi Iyengar @OfficeofRI
FIFA’s soon-to-be-ex-president Sepp Blatter, embroiled in a massive investigation into corruption within the governing body of global soccer, said this week that he is “clean.”
“I have my conscience and I know I am an honest man,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “I am not a worried man.”
Blatter has been under investigation since early June in a scandal that has seen 14 FIFA officials indicted for financial irregularities totaling more than $150 million over two and a half decades. He resigned from his post despite having been re-elected for a fifth consecutive presidential term, but will continue to serve as president until a successor is elected early next year.
“I [resigned] because I wanted to protect FIFA,” the 79-year-old told the BBC. “I can protect myself. I am strong enough.”
The Swiss-led corruption probe is also looking into how hosts for the soccer World Cup were chosen, with the awarding of the quadrennial tournament’s next two editions — in 2018 and 2022 to Russia and Qatar respectively — under particular scrutiny after former FIFA official Chuck Blazer admitted to accepting bribes for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Blatter said he is not “morally responsible” for Blazer and other corrupt officials and told the BBC that the 2010 World Cup “the cleanest World Cup that has ever been done.”
He also defended FIFA, saying the global soccer federation will emerge unscathed from the “tsunami” of allegations.
“The institution is not corrupt,” Blatter said to the BBC. “There is no corruption in football, there is corruption with individuals, it is the people.”
Despite his claims, Blatter is avoiding foreign travel at the moment for fear of being extradited to the U.S. to face investigators, the BBC reported. So far, he himself has not been charged with any misdeed, although his deputy, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valckx, has figured prominently in the investigation, having cleared a suspicious payment of $10 million to an account in the Caribbean that investigators say represented a bribe from the South Africa soccer federation to others in return for their votes. The South African soccer association denies the allegations.