KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Sepp Blatter is changing his mind. He always believed he was brought down by a plot against him created from the United States in angry reaction to the defeat by Qatar in the 2022 World Cup bidding campaign. Now the disgraced former president of FIFA thinks the plot was kindled inside the world football federation itself.
The prompt for Blatter’s revisionism stemmed from a document uncovered by the German news magazine Der Spiegel and prepared by senior FIFA officials without his knowledge five months before the house of cards came tumbling down on May 27, 2015.
That was day when seven senior football executives, including two FIFA vice-presidents were yanked from their beds in the Baur au Lac hotel by Swiss police acting on extradition applications from the US Justice Department. The raid, which caused a sensation far beyond the realms of world sport, was staged deliberately two days before FIFA’s annual congress.
Later that day the then US Attorney-General, Loretta Lynch, revealed the length, depth and breadth of the anti-corruption investigation which is bringing more than 40 individuals and companies to face justice in New York. Sentencing is is due to start later this year though the dates keep being pushed back.
Amid all thie legal turmoil Blatter was deposed as FIFA president and faces criminal investigation over the ‘disloyal payment’ of $2m to Michel Platini, then a FIFA vice-president and head of the European governing body UEFA.
The major legal concern of FIFA has been to claim victim status as a damaged party in what has been labelled, for convenience, FIFAGate.
Until now it had been thought that FIFA’s in-house legal team and lawyer Quinn Emanuel had leaped into action only after the Baur au Lac raid.
But the document uncovered by Der Spiegel, commissioning Quinn Emanuel, was signed and sealed in January 2015. It was signed off by legal director Marco Villiger, finance chief Markus Kattner and secretary-general Jerome Valcke,
Kattner and Valcke have signed been sacked. Only Villiger remains, the great survivor, and who has since risen to the role of deputy secretary-general.
Blatter, presented with the latest evidence, told Swiss agency SDA: “I should have known about this, I should have been informed. I can not think of anything better than to get rid of an inconvenient president. I had always thought the opening action against me was initiated with the involvement of the Americans. But, obviously now, I was betrayed by my own FIFA people, whom I had trusted .”
Der Spiegel has said its request for comment by Villiger and Valcke went answered.
Kattner said that he could not remember the contract among so many which crossed his desk. He said: “If I had seen the stamp of approval of the legal director then I would have signed the document in all confidence.”
It has always remained unclear how the Swiss authorities, who launched their own investigation only after the US DoJ raid, lighted so quickly on the payment to Platini which Blatter had authorised and which ultimately brought about the downfall of both men.