GENEVA (AP) — Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is now facing a bribery case, and one of his former vice presidents was fined more than $1 million in a separate investigation into kickbacks.
The FIFA ethics committee said Friday it opened formal proceedings against Blatter, former secretary general Jerome Valcke and former finance director Markus Kattner over million-dollar payments in their contracts — some of which were approved by other senior FIFA officials.
On a busy day for FIFA prosecutors and judges, former vice president Jeffrey Webb was later fined 1 million Swiss francs ($1.02 million) and banned from soccer for life in another bribery case.
The record fine imposed by FIFA was surprising. A life ban for the Cayman Islands banker — once North America’s top soccer official and a one-time possible successor to Blatter — was expected after he pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn federal court last November to charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
FIFA revealed in June, after Kattner was fired, that he, Blatter and Valcke agreed to pay themselves bonuses worth tens of millions of dollars from World Cup profits. Lawyers acting for soccer’s governing body described evidence suggesting “a coordinated effort by three former top officials of FIFA to enrich themselves.”
Ethics prosecutors said Friday their investigation relates to bribery and corruption, accepting gifts and conflicts of interest for all three men, plus a breach of confidentiality by Kattner.
The case involves “salaries and bonuses paid to Mr. Blatter, Mr. Valcke and Mr. Kattner as well as other provisions included in the contracts of these three individuals,” the statement said.
Blatter received a 12 million Swiss franc ($12 million) bonus after the successful 2014 World Cup in Brazil and would have been due another 12 million Swiss francs for completing his 2015-19 presidential term, the contracts reveal.
Valcke was awarded a $10 million World Cup bonus for 2014 and was due $11 million from the 2018 tournament in Russia.
Kattner’s contract was redrafted in May 2015, days after the U.S. and Swiss federal investigations were revealed by police raids on Zurich’s Baur au Lac hotel. The contract was extended through 2023 with extra clauses guaranteeing termination pay and indemnification for legal fees and restitution claims.
“These two provisions appear to violate mandatory Swiss law,” FIFA said in June.
Blatter and Valcke are already serving ethics bans and face criminal proceedings by Swiss federal prosecutors as part of a wider investigation of corruption implicating FIFA and leading soccer officials.
The 80-year-old Blatter is awaiting the verdict from a Court of Arbitration for Sport panel in his appeal against a six-year ban for conflict of interest. That case relates to a $2 million payment he authorized in 2011 for Michel Platini, the former UEFA president who also served as a FIFA vice president.
Valcke’s 12-year ethics ban for various charges of financial misconduct and destroying evidence was later reduced to 10 years on appeal. The French former TV personality can pursue a further appeal at CAS.
All three men have previously denied wrongdoing, and Kattner’s defense was previously stated that his contracts were known and approved by other FIFA officials and auditors.
It is unclear if FIFA has begun proceedings to recover money already paid out to the three men.
Webb was elected in 2012 as president of the CONCACAF region to replace the disgraced Jack Warner, who left soccer to escape FIFA sanctions in an election bribery case. Warner has also been indicted by U.S. authorities and is fighting extradition from his native Trinidad and Tobago.
Indictments published by the U.S. Department of Justice last year alleged that Webb sought bribes soon after his election, in conspiracy with CONCACAF’s then-secretary general and marketing agencies.
Webb was arrested at a luxury hotel in Zurich in May 2015 and extradited weeks later to the United States. He was released on bail after posting a $10 million bond that was secured with his wife’s diamond wedding ring, plus an array of high-end cars and watches, and 10 properties.
He pleaded guilty last November to “one count of racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy,” the FIFA ethics committee said Friday.
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