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More turmoil at FIFA over lavish bonuses, as Blatter denies wrongdoing

Revelations that former FIFA head Sepp Blatter and others paid themselves millions in bonuses has further embarrassed football's top governing body. Blatter's lawyers insist the compensation was proper.

FIFA finally opened its financial books Friday to reveal the scale of Blatter's staggeringly generous pay deal at the end of his 17-year presidency. This comes as Swiss authorities raided FIFA headquarters in Zurich in a far-reaching probe implicating top football officials.

Two recently fired top officials – Secretary-General Jerome Valcke and Finance Director Markus Kattner - had awarded themselves raises, bonuses, and future golden handshakes totaling tens of millions of dollars.

FIFA insists that prior to 2013, the people who signed the contracts were "in principle" also the ones who approved them, leading to a closed-loop culture of top brass writing themselves payroll checks.

Gianni Infantino FIFA Präsident

The chair of FIFA's audit and compensation panels has resigned in protest of FIFA chief Gianni Infantino's leadership

"They had the authority they needed, and they simply told payroll and HR, the department generally in charge for employment contracts at FIFA and which reported to Mr Kattner, how much should be paid out and to whom," a FIFA report said.

Blatter's basic salary of $3 million (2.6 million euros) in 2015 was topped up by an $11 million contract bonus for the 2010 World Cup, $12 million for the 2014 edition, a $12 million performance bonus had he completed a successful 2015-19 presidential term, and annual bonuses up to $1.5 million.

Since last September, Blatter has been the subject of Swiss criminal proceedings, opened by Attorney General Michael Lauber for suspected mismanagement and misappropriation of FIFA funds. Investigators raided FIFA's offices on Thursday to collect evidence in the wide-ranging criminal probe.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Blatter said his pay arrangements were in line with other global sports bosses.

"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," said US lawyer Richard Cullen in a statement made on behalf of the 80-year-old former president.

FIFA leadership still under scrutiny

Schweiz Ex-FIFA-Präsident Joseph Blatter - Buchpräsentation

Sepp Blatter

But despite the fact that Blatter and his associates have now been dismissed and banned from the organization, the global soccer body is still under suspicion of ethics breaches.

That's because FIFA has been swept into new controversy after its congress in Mexico passed a resolution giving the FIFA Council the power to appoint or dismiss members of its independent watchdog.

German newspaper Die Welt reported on Thursday that FIFA chief Gianni Infantino was facing investigation over possible ethics breaches just weeks after he angrily rejected an "insulting" presidential pay offer of 2 million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros).

The German newspaper said it had seen email evidence suggesting that Infantino had ordered senior FIFA officials to delete recordings of a controversial meeting of the FIFA Council, formerly the Executive Committee, before last month's congress in Mexico City.

This effectively gave the FIFA Council, headed by Infantino, the right to fire ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, ethics investigator Cornel Borbely and the head of the audit and compliance committee, Domenico Scala. The latter had offered the compensation package Infantino found beneath his station.

jar/jr (Reuters, AP)

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