FIFA's lawyers say former President Sepp Blatter, his right-hand man Jerome Valcke, and former finance director Markus Kattner awarded themselves hefty pay rises and bonuses over a five-year period, apparently illegally.
"The evidence appears to reveal a coordinated effort by three top officials of FIFA to enrich themselves through annual salary increases, World Cup bonuses and other incentives totaling more than 79 million Francs [around $80 million or 70.8 million euros] - in just the last five years," Bill Burck of Quinn Emanuel, a US law firm working for FIFA, told journalists.
The football body's lawyers said the payments seemed to violate Swiss laws and the evidence would be given to American and Swiss prosecutors investigating corruption charges.
Details of the investigation
In a media release on FIFA's website, Quinn Emanuel's lawyers said the documents raised "serious questions" on the approval of "problematic contract amendments" in favor of Blatter, Kattner and former FIFA Secretary General Valcke. "These amendments resulted in massive payouts - amounting to tens of millions of dollars - to the former FIFA officials in the form of salaries and bonuses between the years 2011 and 2015," the statement said.
The lawyers also released a list, showing how each official's contract had more than one amendment. The dates when these amendments were made were also "ominous," the lawyers said.
For example, Blatter was running against Mohammed Bin Hammam for the FIFA's presidential election in 2011 and it was uncertain whether he would be re-elected. On April 30 of the same year, Blatter extended the contracts of Valcke and Kattner by 8.5 years and added big bonuses to their salaries.
The two were also given generous terms in case their positions at FIFA were terminated, considered a possibility if Blatter did not win re-election. The termination clauses promised full payment of these lengthy contracts, even if they had to leave for "just" causes. The documents also promised that FIFA would cover any legal fees that the pair might face, even if they were found guilty.
Blatter, Valcke and Kattner received a total of 14 million Swiss francs in bonuses for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. They were made eligible for another 15.5 million Swiss francs for the upcoming world cup in Russia in 2018.
Kattner's contract was extended to the end of 2023 again last year, after Blatter was re-elected as FIFA's president despite a US investigation - only to announce days later that he would eventually step down. Kattner's new contract guaranteed him more than eight years of future salary and bonus payments running into several million Francs.
Quinn Emanuel's lawyers said they believed a further investigation into these contracts was warranted. The matter would also be referred to the football body's Ethics Committee for review.
Raids in FIFA's Zurich offices
The revelation came on the same day that Swiss investigators announced that they had searched the FIFA offices, with the raids carried out on Thursday.
"Specifically, documents and electronic data have been secured and their relevance for ongoing investigations is now being determined," Switzerland's attorney general's office said.
Massive corruption charges against Sepp Blatter led to him stepping down from the position of FIFA president in 2015. Blatter and Michel Platini, the former president of the European soccer body UEFA, were subsequently banned from the sport. Platini had tried to run for Blatter's vacant job, but eventually withdrew, as ongoing investigations would have prevented him from claiming the position.
Officials have confirmed that the latest raids had nothing to do with allegation of graft around current FIFA President Gianni Infantino, but in recent weeks, there has been talk about the Italian national committing a series of ethics violation. The fact that Infantino previously worked with Platini has not helped quell the speculations.
mg/msh (Reuters, AP)