KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Sepp Blatter’s role in the Caribbean TV rights controversy should be questioned by the criminal authorities, according to Mark Pieth.

The Basel governance guru, who advised world federation FIFA on reform between 2011 and 2013, was speaking on the sidelines of an international lawyers’ conference here in Zurich.

Pieth was answering media questions concerning weekend revelations that Blatter had signed off a World Cup TV rights bargain to former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner which later cleared up to a possible $11m in surplus revenues.

He said: “Blatter has to defend himself against a form of embezzlement charges . . . . They have prima facie evidence. That means they have to open an investigation.”

Within hours Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber had confirmed that the contract now fell within his own department’s investigation of FIFA actvities – as a direct result of the FIFA having sent him a copy of its own rebuttal statement.

The latest allegations, presenting a direct link to Blatter, had been published at the weekend by a Swiss TV channel, SRF. It claimed that in 2005 Blatter signed off personally on the sale to the then CONCACAF president Warner of 2010 and 2014 World Cup TV rights for an under-valued $600,000. This comprised $250,000 for 2010 and $350,000 for 2014.

Warner sub-licensed the rights to his own Cayman Islands-registered company J & D International (JDI). In 2007, JDI sold on the rights to Jamaica-based cable TV station SportsMax for a value that the broadcaster reported on its own website as being between $18m and $20m.

Medi reports estimated the surplus generated from the re-sale business as around $11m.

Court documents in the Cayman Islands show that Jeffrey Webb – Warner’s successor as president of the CONCACAF confederation – was a director of JDI at the time of the deal. Both Webb and Warner curently face corruption charges in the United States.

Previous revelations

This is not the first time that details have emerged of Warner’s highly-favoured TV rights deals with FIFA.

In January 2012 FIFA conceded that Warner had acquired World Cup rights for the first time in 1986, “for a symbolic sum (one dollar) from the then FIFA vice-president Guillermo Canedo.”

Warner told the executive committee at the time that he resold the rights to the Caribbean Football Union, “subsequently ploughing the money back into football development in the Caribbean area.”

FIFA responded to the weekend reports by saying that it should have shared in the re-sale profits.

A statement said: “On 12 September 2005, FIFA signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union regarding TV broadcasting rights.

“Under the terms of this agreement FIFA was to receive a fixed licensing fee as well as a 50 per cent share of any profits related to the subcontracting of these rights.

“The CFU made several breaches to the contract and failed to meet its financial obligations. The obligations concerning the required pre-approval for subcontracting were not met either.

“For these reasons, FIFA terminated its contract with the CFU on 25 July 2011.”

Warner, who has just lost his seat as an MP in Trinidad and Tobago, is currently contesting extradition to the United States in the FIFAGate corruption scandal.