ZURICH – Sepp Blatter has met with U.S. Department of Justice investigators and insists he is not a suspect in their bribery and corruption case linked to FIFA.
“I was never a person of interest or under scrutiny by the American justice. Never,” the former FIFA president said on Friday.
Blatter’s most recent contact “with lawyers from the United States Justice Department” was several months ago in Switzerland, he said, adding that FIFA legal representatives were also present.
“I have been investigated in two or three matters but it’s no wrongdoing,” Blatter said, giving rare detail about American and Swiss federal investigations which rocked FIFA almost two years ago and later forced him from office.
Blatter met with reporters on Friday two weeks after FIFA blamed his leadership regime, and fallout from corruption scandals, for much of its $369 million loss in 2016.
Robustly defending his 18-year presidency, Blatter suggested FIFA now “promised too much money” to soccer bodies worldwide, and claimed top-tier sponsor contracts with Wanda and Qatar Airways had been prepared by his administration.
Still, Blatter’s legacy after 40 years working for FIFA is also being defined by the US and Swiss federal investigations of corruption.
Blatter was not directly implicated in two DoJ indictments published in 2015. They described $10 million paid through FIFA accounts in 2008 to North American soccer officials as bribes linked to South Africa’s winning bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
“I was not involved in that,” Blatter said, suggesting he and his lawyer had no contact with U.S. authorities since meeting them “last October or November.”
“My lawyer said they should stop that I should be a punching ball between the interests of the U.S. and the interests of Switzerland and the interests of FIFA,” the 81-year-old Blatter said. “So the only case which is pending for me is the Swiss case.”
Swiss federal prosecutors opened criminal proceedings against Blatter in September 2015 for suspected mismanagement. That related to a $2 million payment he authorized in 2011 to then-UEFA President Michel Platini, which led to both being banned for unethical conduct, and the sale of undervalued World Cup TV rights for the Caribbean to then-FIFA vice president Jack Warner.
Blatter said the investigation against him was yet to move forward: “I have never heard anything, my lawyer has heard nothing about that.”
Instead, Blatter revealed he has been providing Swiss investigators “ways and means to bring a little bit of clarification into the cases which are open.”
“I have been interviewed and I will be interviewed in the future,” he said. “I cannot go into details. But I am only a person for information.”
Switzerland’s attorney general has opened proceedings against Franz Beckenbauer and other German organizers of the 2006 World Cup in a fraud case, and against Blatter’s long-time FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.