x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Fifa add Blatter to bribery scandal investigation

It is unclear whether Wednesday's presidential election will now go ahead after president becomes in embroiled in saga.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter is now under investigation.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter is now under investigation.

GENEVA // Fifa have placed its own president under investigation in a widening bribery scandal just days before he is scheduled to face re-election.

Fifa said Sepp Blatter, who is accused of turning a blind eye to alleged bribes being paid to Caribbean voters, must submit a statement by Saturday before facing an ethics committee hearing in Zurich on Sunday.

With both Blatter and rival candidate Mohamed bin Hammam now under investigation, it is unclear whether next Wednesday's election will go ahead.

"I cannot comment on the proceedings that have been opened against me. The facts will speak for themselves," Blatter said in a statement released by his campaign advisers.

Bin Hammam and senior Fifa official Jack Warner were summoned Wednesday to face the ethics panel on charges of bribing voters during a Caribbean campaign visit. The allegations were levelled by American Fifa executive committee member Chuck Blazer.

"In the report submitted by ... Chuck Blazer earlier this week, Fifa vice president Jack Warner would have informed the Fifa President in advance about alleged cash payments to delegations attending a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union," FIFA said in a statement Friday.

Up to 25 delegates who have votes in the election were allegedly offered bribes at the May 10-11 conference in Warner's native Trinidad.

Bin Hammam requested Thursday that Fifa also investigate Blatter in the affair that has thrown soccer's governing body into chaos and left the scheduled election up in the air.

Bin Hammam claims Blatter broke ethics rules by not reporting apparent corruption attempts.

Fifa's ethics rules require officials to "report any evidence of violations of conduct."

Bin Hammam, Warner and two CFU officials have been summoned before the ethics panel based on Blazer's explosive file of evidence.

Blatter "had no issue" with the bribes being arranged, according to bin Hammam's formal complaint.

Warner, a senior FIFA official for 28 years, allegedly said that "the Fifa President would have had no issue" with the payments.

Support from the Caribbean has long been seen as crucial to bin Hammam's hopes of unseating former ally Blatter.

Blazer, the highest-ranking American in Fifa, has been an executive committee and Concacaf regional body colleague of the men he accuses for more than 15 years.

Michel Platini, the president of European football's governing body Uefa, described the decision by Fifa on Friday to investigate Blatter  as a "very interesting moment," while claiming to be completely "incorruptible" himself.

"It is a very interesting moment," Platini, who is also a vice president of Fifa, said in London after being informed of Fifa's decision to investigate its own head. "We have some strange days these now, these next days because of that and we have elections. I will go back to Zurich after the final of the Champions League."

Platini will be arriving in Switzerland on Sunday as bin Hammam and Warner face the ethics panel.

The Frenchman, who moved into football politics after an illustrious career playing for France and Juventus, maintained that he has never been bribed.

"Don't joke, never, never," Platini said. "You know the people who are corrupt, they know who can be corruptible. They know I am incorruptible."

Asked if Fifa is corrupt, Platini responded: "I don't know, let's [see] the evidence."

"Football is the most beautiful and popular game in the world and we have to resolve these problems," Platini said.

"I know many journalists corrupted too," he told reporters at the unveiling of a Uefa-funded pitch at a London school. "It is not only a fight in football. Football is a mirror for the society and what happens in football can arrive in every part of the society."

Platini is widely expected to run for the Fifa presidency in four years time. This time, Platini's executive committee at Uefa has thrown its support behind Blatter, who has said he will serve a fourth and final term.

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