FIFA on Tuesday accused former president Sepp Blatter and others of “criminal mismanagement” over their handling of a $565 million museum project.
Soccer’s worldwide governing body said it filed a criminal complaint with the state prosecutor in its home base of Zurich, Switzerland after finding that Blatter and other former managers wasted 500 million Swiss francs “that could and should have been channeled into the development of global football.”
The complaint grew out of a forensic audit of the Zurich museum project that Blatter set up, which uncovered “a wide range of suspicious circumstances and management failures, some of which may be criminal in nature,” said FIFA Deputy Secretary General Alasdair Bell.
“We came to the conclusion that we had no choice other than to report the case to state prosecutors, not least because the current management of FIFA also has fiduciary responsibilities to the organization and we intend to live up to them, even if those before us dismally failed to,” Bell said in a statement.
Blatter’s lawyer, Lorenz Erni, shot down the allegations.
“The accusations are baseless and are vehemently repudiated,” Erni said.
Blatter’s administration spent 140 million francs (roughly $158 million) renovating and refurbishing the Haus zur Enge in downtown Zurich — home to the FIFA World Football Museum — even though the body did not own the building, FIFA alleged.
The organization also locked itself into a long-term rental agreement with “unfavorable terms” that will cost FIFA 360 million francs (about $407 million) by the time it expires in 2045, according to FIFA officials.
The allegations come about five years after FIFA removed Blatter from office after 17 years amid allegations of bribery and corruption in the world’s most popular sport.
FIFA officials said they will submit all the documents in the museum case to the body’s independent ethics committee so it can take up its own investigation if warranted.
“In addition, FIFA will continue to cooperate with the authorities in Switzerland and elsewhere so that those people who damaged football are held accountable for their actions,” the organization said.
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