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Blatter hit with FIFA bribery probe

Zurich (AFP) – Banned former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his chief lieutenants were under fresh investigation Friday over alleged illicit salaries and bonuses totalling $80 million (71mn euros), FIFA’s ethics committee said.

Football’s scandal-plagued ruling body said in June that Blatter, Jerome Valcke and Markus Kattner had skimmed off the eight-figure sum in “a coordinated effort” to “enrich themselves” between 2011 and 2015.

It says it has passed on details to the Swiss police, who along with US authorities are pursuing dozens of former football bosses over widespread corruption at the highest levels of the game.

In a statement, the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee announced it had now opened “formal proceedings” against the three men, who it suspects of bribery, conflict of interest and corruption.

Once the most powerful man in football, Blatter is already serving a six-year ban from football over ethics violations relating to a suspect $2 million payment he authorised in 2011 to former UEFA boss Michel Platini. 

Valcke was banned for 12 years, reduced to 10 on appeal, over misconduct regarding television deals and 2014 World Cup ticket sales.

Kattner, who briefly succeeded Valcke as Blatter’s right-hand man, was fired in May over “breaches” involving millions of dollars.

“Under the FIFA code of ethics, the investigatory chamber shall examine all circumstances of the cases equally,” Friday’s statement said.

“For reasons linked to privacy rights and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the investigatory chamber will not publish further details at the present time.”

Blatter, 80, who is fighting to overturn his ban from football, declined to make comment about the latest case against him.

However, people close to the disgraced Blatter and Kattner say both men strongly deny the allegations. 

Blatter and Platini were the most prominent casualties during more than a year of unprecedented scandal that upended world football, but many others have fallen. 

Prosecutors in New York have indicted at least 40 football and sports marketing executives over allegedly receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which typically has the final word in major sport disputes, is expected to deliver a verdict in Blatter’s appeal within weeks.

Blatter has said that he will respect the verdict.

Separately, former CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb has been banned from all football-related activities for life, FIFA said.

Webb was found guilty of charges including conflicts of interest and bribery and corruption. He was also fined one million Swiss francs ($1.02 million).

Webb, who had been close to Blatter, was among those arrested in a dawn raid at a Zurich luxury hotel in May last year by Swiss police acting on a US warrant.B

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