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 April 12, 2002 | 1112 IST

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Blatter suspends audit of FIFA finances

The political, financial and constitutional crisis engulfing FIFA, world soccer's governing body, reached an all-time low on Thursday when beleaguered president Sepp Blatter suspended an internal investigation into FIFA's finances.

His unilateral action comes after a week of unprecedented chaos at the very peak of soccer's worldwide administrative power.

The repercussions for both the president and the administration are likely to be enormous and impossible to predict.

Blatter, FIFA's 66-year-old Swiss president is in the middle of a campaign to be re-elected for a second four-year term at the FIFA Congress in Seoul on May 29 and is opposed by 55-year-old Cameroonian Issa Hayatou, the president of CAF, the African confederation.

Blatter returned from a vote-gathering trip around Africa on Thursday and within hours had sent a letter to all six members of the ad hoc Internal Audit Committee and the executive committee saying he was suspending the Audit's investigation into FIFA's finances.

The London Daily Mail reported in the first edition of Friday's newspaper that the letters were handed to the committee members just before they and outside expert advisers were to question FIFA finance director Urs Linzi.

Blatter, vehemently opposed to the Audit being established in the first place, said he was suspending their investigation as there had been "a breach of confidentiality".

The letter states: "In order to guarantee and to protect the interests of FIFA and the FIFA Executive Committee, I have to suspend the work of the FIFA ad hoc Internal Audit Committee pending an investigation in the matter of breach of confidentiality and the way documents which have been given to members of the Committee have been handled."

The letter concludes: "Therefore today's meeting has been postponed. No further documents will be disseminated until the security of all documents is certain and confidentiality re-installed."


The audit has been chaired by FIFA vice-president David Will of Scotland and its special objective was to establish the state of FIFA finances which have been the subject of intense debate since the collapse nearly a year ago of FIFA's long-term marketing partner ISL-ISMM with debts of around $300 million.

Blatter always claimed the dent in FIFA's pocket was in the region of $20 million but his critics believed that FIFA lost as much as 10 times more than that figure.

Blatter fought for months to stop the investigation from taking place, but his executive committee finally over-ruled his wishes last month after a furiously heated debate in Zurich.

It started work three weeks ago.

If this was the only development at FIFA House this week it would be sensational enough, but it follows days of intense political in-fighting that are far from over.

While he was in Africa, Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer -- two of president Blatter's staunchest allies -- and the president and general secretary of the CONCACAF confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, called for the resignation of FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen, who responded by threatening legal action against Warner and Blazer.

In a fiercely-worded statement Blazer, acting with Warner's authority, accused Zen-Ruffinen of interfering in the internal affairs of CONCACAF.

They claimed he had over-reached his responsibility by ordering an inquiry into the legitimacy of Dr Edgardo Codesal being declared ineligible by Warner and Blazer of standing as a presidential candidate against Warner at next week's CONCACAF Congress in Miami.


The statement also alleged that Zen-Ruffinen was actively supporting the Hayatou campaign against Blatter.

Zen-Ruffinen responded on Wednesday by saying that unless the comments were withdrawn by midnight on April 15 he would sue Warner and Blazer for their "completely unfounded" remarks.

Blatter, meanwhile, ordered Zen-Ruffinen to cancel the meeting that Zen-Ruffinen was organising for executive committee members to discuss the Codesal case.

The action taken by the president has left Zen-Ruffinen's position is some considerable doubt.

According to senior FIFA sources who spoke to Reuters on Thursday, Blatter is intending to suspend Zen-Ruffinen from his post, possibly as early as Friday.

Blazer called for Zen-Ruffinen to either resign or be suspended from his post -- with the possible exception of allowing him to work only on the upcoming World Cup finals.

Zen-Ruffinen has, meanwhile, responded by saying that correspondence relating to Warner's election as CONCACAF president in 1989 have gone missing from FIFA archives.

The only definite outcome of Thursday's developments is that there will be a swift reaction from the executive committee, many of whose members will feel that president Blatter has acted without a mandate to overrule one of their most important decisions for years.

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