Swiss Open Criminal Probe Against FIFA's Sepp Blatter

Things are about to get real.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Switzerland's attorney general has opened criminal proceedings against Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, the president of FIFA, international soccer's governing body. The New York Times first reported the investigation, and the Office of the Attorney General announced it in a press release Friday morning.

Swiss authorities searched FIFA's Zurich headquarters and interrogated Blatter on Friday, according to the release.

Blatter is suspected of "criminal mismanagement and misappropriation," according to the release. The investigation stems from a television rights contract the FIFA president signed with former Caribbean Football Union president Jack Warner, as well as a "disloyal payment" of 2 million Swiss francs (about $2 million) to Michel Platini, the president of UEFA, the European soccer federation.

The Swiss allege that Blatter "violated his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of FIFA" in signing the contract with Warner, a former FIFA Executive Committee member.

The February 2011 payment to Platini also came "at the expense of FIFA," the release states.

The allegations against Blatter come months after Swiss and American authorities launched separate but cooperative investigations into corruption at FIFA. The U.S. Dept. of Justice indicted 14 current and former FIFA officials, including Warner, on various corruption charges in May.

The Swiss began their own investigation into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, both of which have been dogged by corruption allegations. Swiss officials have examined more than 50 cases of money laundering and more than 100 incidents of suspicious banking activity around the events.

In June, Blatter promised to step down as FIFA president as the organization launched its own internal reform efforts. He is still serving in the role, though he has largely avoided travel during the investigations and notably did not attend this summer's Women's World Cup in Canada. Platini, who Swiss officials asked to provide information as part of the investigation, is considered the favorite to succeed Blatter as FIFA president.

FIFA said in a statement Friday that it “has complied with all requests for documents, data and other information. We will continue this level of cooperation throughout the investigation."