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Judgment day: Tainted Blatter appears before FIFA ethics board

December 17, 2015 14:56 IST
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Sepp Blatter

IMAGE: Suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Photograph: Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter appeared before the ethics committee of world football's governing body on Thursday in a case that could end with him banned from the sport for years.

FIFA is reeling from the worst corruption scandal in its more than 100-year history, with 41 people including national football bosses as well as entities charged by US prosecutors and Blatter under criminal investigation in Switzerland.

Blatter, who is due to leave the post on February 26 when his successor will be elected, arrived at FIFA headquarters in Zurich in a chauffeur-driven vehicle with one of his lawyers.

Blatter was suspended on October 8 from all soccer-related activity for 90 days alongside

European (UEFA) football chief Michel Platini pending a full investigation into their conduct.

The FIFA ethics inquiry began in the wake of the Swiss attorney general office's decision to open criminal proceedings against Blatter over a $2 million payment to Platini in 2011. Blatter and Platini have both denied wrongdoing.

Platini, who had intended to run for the FIFA presidency, was due to be heard by the committee on Friday but has refused to attend, saying the process against him is purely political.

Earlier this week, Blatter wrote to FIFA's 209 member state associations, on his own stationary, proclaiming his innocence.

He reiterated that the payment made when Blatter was running for re-election of UEFA, was legitimate and resulted from a verbal contract for work Platini had done for FIFA years before.

Separately, a spokesman for the Swiss Justice Ministry said on Thursday it had frozen millions of Swiss francs related to FIFA in response to a request from US investigators.

Switzerland freezes millions of Swiss francs related to FIFA

The Swiss Justice Ministry has frozen millions of Swiss francs related to world soccer body FIFA, a spokesman said on Thursday, confirming a media report.

World soccer's governing body is suffering the worst corruption scandal in its more than 100-year history, with 41 entities and people including soccer bosses from throughout the Americas charged by US prosecutors and FIFA President Sepp Blatter suspended from his post pending a full investigation.

"US authorities asked for documents related to 50 accounts at different banks, through which corruption money is supposed to have transited," Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said, confirming a report by Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.

In a statement, Galli said a "high double-digit million amount" had been frozen following the US request to authorities in Switzerland, where FIFA is based.

Blatter and European ((UEFA) soccer chief Michel Platini have both been provisionally suspended for 90 days over a suspicious payment made to Platini, pending a thorough investigation. Both men have proclaimed their innocence.

Thursday's announcement came a day after officials said German prosecutors had asked Switzerland to help look into a suspicious payment linked to Germany's hosting of the 2006 World Cup, including by sifting through bank data.

"The justice ministry has recently passed on the request for administrative assistance from the prosecutor in Frankfurt to the Swiss attorney general’s office so it can deal with it," Galli said. "The ... ministry has not received any other requests for administrative assistance related to FIFA."

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