By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) – Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and ex-secretary general Jerome Valcke, already banned from football for ethics violations, are facing a fresh investigation, this time over the salaries and bonuses they received in office.
FIFA’s ethics committee said its investigators had opened formal proceedings against both men, along with former finance director Markus Kattner, for possible ethics violations which included “bribery and corruption”.
The suspected violations were “in the context of salaries and bonuses paid to Mr Blatter, Mr Valcke and Mr Kattner as well as other provisions included in the contracts of these three individuals,” it said.
They are also suspected of having breached rules on general conduct, loyalty, conflicts of interest and “offering and accepting gifts and other benefits.”
Blatter, Valcke and Kattner could not immediately be reached for comment. They have previously denied wrongdoing.
Blatter has said his earnings were in line with top officials from professional sports leagues around the world.
Soccer’s global governing body is attempting to recover from the worst graft scandal in its history which has seen 42 people, including former FIFA executive committee members, indicted in the United States since May last year.
Criminal investigations are also under way in Switzerland, where FIFA has its headquarters.
FIFA said in June that an internal investigation revealed that the three officials had received 79 million Swiss francs ($81 million) in compensation over five years, calling them “massive payouts”.
FIFA’s lawyers Quinn Emanuel, which conducted the investigation, said the evidence revealed a coordinated effort by the three to “enrich themselves through annual salary increases, World Cup bonuses and other incentives.”
The sums received by the trio included 23 million Swiss francs in “special bonuses” for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while Blatter and Valcke got a total of 14 million francs in bonuses for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and 15.5 million francs for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the firm said.
Blatter, 80, who led FIFA from 1998 until 2015, has already been banned for eight years, later to reduced to six following an appeal.
The ban was imposed for ethics violations related to a payment of 2 million Swiss francs that FIFA made to then European soccer boss Michel Platini with Blatter’s approval in 2011 for work done a decade earlier.
He has taken his case to sport’s highest tribunal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and is awaiting a verdict.
Valcke was fired in January and has since been banned for 12 years, reduced to 10 on appeal, for ethics violations which included using FIFA expenses for sightseeing trips and destruction of evidence.
Kattner, who took over as acting secretary general after Valcke’s dismissal, was fired by FIFA in May. ($1 = 0.9735 Swiss francs)
(Editing by Toby Chopra and Robin Pomeroy)