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22 Dec, 2020 15:45

‘We had no choice’: FIFA launches criminal complaint against ex-boss Blatter over ‘suspicious $554MN football museum finances’

‘We had no choice’: FIFA launches criminal complaint against ex-boss Blatter over ‘suspicious $554MN football museum finances’

Digraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter could face charges over a museum in Switzerland after the organization made a complaint following a "forensic audit", revealing a building restoration and rent agreement cost $554 million.

The governing body issued a scathing statement after asking state prosecutors to look into potential criminal activities around a football museum, with Blatter and other former officials involved in the project coming under scrutiny.

Blatter, who resigned during a corruption scandal in 2015 and has always denied any wrongdoing, is said to have overseen the vast spend on a building that was not owned by FIFA in a move that involved "locking itself into a long-term rental agreement on unfavourable terms".

"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," said Alasdair Bell, FIFA's deputy secretary general.

"That audit revealed a wide range of suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature and 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."

Blatter's lawyer, Lorenz Erni, said the accusations were "baseless and vehemently repudiated".

The 84-year-old was in charge at the start of the project in 2013, two years before he stepped down from the post he had held for 17 years.

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He is currently serving a six-year ban from football after losing an appeal at the court of arbitration for sport in 2016.

The most expensive part of the agreement was a rental deal with the insurance firm Swiss Life, which was agreed until at least 2045 in the absence of any other suitable properties being considered.

Documents seen by the PA news agency allege that the former management team “repeatedly misled different Fifa bodies as to the cost and viability of the project”, claiming that “grave conflicts of interest” and “suspected nepotism” had been discovered in relation to the project.

Swiss Life declined to comment on the matter when approached by the agency, saying it was a matter for FIFA and the former executive team.

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FIFA pledged to co-operate with Swiss and global authorities in order to ensure that "those people who damaged football are held accountable for their actions".

Blatter is under criminal investigation in Switzerland over the separate matter of an alleged undue payment of around $1.75 million to his former UEFA counterpart, ex-France striker Michel Platini.

Platini and Blatter have also maintained that they have done nothing wrong in relation to that investigation.

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