Ex FIFA adviser: Blatter faces scrutiny for TV rights deal

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA President Sepp Blatter should face a criminal investigation for selling under-valued World Cup television rights to Jack Warner, the governing body’s former anti-corruption adviser said Monday.

Mark Pieth, a Swiss professor of criminal law, said Blatter is a likely target in a Swiss federal investigation of “criminal mismanagement” at FIFA.

“Blatter has to defend himself against a form of embezzlement charges. That’s a topic they need to discuss,” Pieth said of an investigation being led by Switzerland’s attorney general.

Swiss broadcaster SRF on Friday published a Blatter-signed FIFA contract from 2005 that sold the Warner-controlled Caribbean Football Union rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups for a combined $600,000.

Warner, then a longstanding FIFA vice president and Blatter supporter, licensed the rights to a company controlled by his family. They were then sold for a reported sum of about $20 million to a Jamaica-based broadcaster.

The contract document appeared to confirm Warner’s claim in 2011, after he left FIFA when implicated in bribery, that FIFA let him control cheap World Cup rights in exchange for helping Blatter win presidential elections.

Warner was indicted in May in a U.S. probe of soccer corruption implicating senior FIFA officials, though it is the separate Swiss case which could threaten Blatter directly.

“They have prima facie evidence. That means they have to open an investigation,” Pieth said on the sidelines of an international meeting of federal prosecutors attended by the attorney generals of the U.S. and Switzerland.

Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber ordered the seizure of massive amounts of data and documents from FIFA headquarters in May and June for an investigation which originally focused on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

“The investigation here in Zurich is much bigger,” Pieth said, comparing the two federal cases which are sharing evidence. “It is really about the whole institution (of FIFA) and what they have been doing over the last whatever 20 years.

“There is some very, very tricky stuff hidden that might even go towards the former boss, Sepp Blatter.”

FIFA defended the Caribbean rights deal over the weekend, claiming that it required a 50-50 profit share between the CFU and FIFA when the rights were sold on.

The TV deal was terminated in July 2011, and FIFA reclaimed the 2014 World Cup rights, after Warner resigned his positions to avoid sanctions in an election bribery case.

FIFA said the Caribbean body, long controlled by Warner, “made several breaches to the contract and failed to meet its financial obligations.”