The Cable

FIFA: Blatter and Other Top Officials ‘Awarded’ Themselves $80 Million

FIFA officials awarded themselves tens of millions of dollars after U.S. indictments last May.

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Just when you think the FIFA scandal, which has exposed tens of millions of dollars in illicit payments to soccer officials around the world, could not get worse, it somehow manages to do so — and in a shocking fashion.

For years, former president Sepp Blatter, former Secretary General Jérôme Valcke, and former Deputy Secretary General Markus Kattner, who also served as FIFA’s chief financial officer, amounted to what lawyers hired by FIFA called’ a “coordinated effort” to line their pockets in the form of bonuses, raises, and other forms of payment. They also rigged FIFA regulations to make sure they were paid, even if they were fired for cause. Over the course of five years, the total amount of illicit money these officials rewarded themselves with totaled more than $80 million, including tens of millions just days after the U.S. Justice Department indicted a host of top FIFA executives on corruption charges last May.

Blatter, Kattner, and Valcke have not yet been indicted, but the the vultures are circling. Swiss authorities have ongoing criminal investigations into possible wrongdoing by Blatter and Valcke. The former FIFA chief’s office in Zurich has been raided, and U.S. authorities have said he is the target of the joint U.S./Swiss inquiry. Just a day before the FIFA findings were made public, Swiss law enforcement raided FIFA’s office again.

All three of the men have been forced out of international soccer. Blatter was banned by FIFA last December; he was replaced by Gianni Infantino in a February election. Valcke was fired in January amid corruption accusations. That left Kattner in charged of FIFA’s finances until he was let go in May after breaching his fiduciary duty to football’s global governing body.

The scandal is a setback for Infantino, the former head of the European soccer federation, UEFA. Just three weeks ago, he promised, “The crisis is over.” But Friday’s announcement shows it is far from done.

Investigators from the law firm Quinn Emanuel found Blatter received a bonus of 12 million Swiss francs (about $12 million) — more than four times his annual salary – after the 2014 World Cup. Valcke pocketed a $10 million World Cup bonus for 2014. He was set to get another $11 million award for the 2018 World Cup. For his part, Kattner’s contract was extended through 2023 with extra clauses guaranteeing termination pay and that his legal and restitution claims would be paid if wrongdoing was discovered.

Even in the face of new charges, Blatter, who was president of FIFA for 17 years and continues to be dogged by human right abuses, graft, and bribery, stood his ground.

“We look forward to showing FIFA that Mr. Blatter’s compensation payments were proper, fair and in line with the heads of major professional sports leagues around the world.” Richard Cullen, Blatter’s lawyer, said in a statement Friday.

Photo credit: PHILLIPP SCHMIDLI/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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