FIFA President Sepp Blatter has denied any wrongdoing in connection with a scandal surrounding soccer's world governing body. He has also expressed regret over the only mistake he believes he has made.
Sepp Blatter has said that he regrets almost none of the actions that he has taken in his 17 years in office as FIFA president. However, speaking to German regional broadcaster SWR on Tuesday, the 79-year-old Swiss national conceded that there was one exception.
"The only thing that I regret is that I didn't step down after the 2014 World Cup," Blatter said. He added that while his family had urged him to retire in the immediate aftermath of the tournament, he had been persuaded by a sense of duty to carry on.
"Back then five of the six FIFA confederations said: Come on, you have to continue," he said.
Blatter also denied any wrongdoing in connection with a scandal surrounding the now defunct Swiss marketing agency International Sport and Leisure (ISL).
"What I can say about myself is that I am an honest man, and I was too trusting," he said. "I trust people and that trust was abused."
ISL kickbacks case
Blatter's comments came after the Swiss justice ministry on Monday confirmed that US authorities had formally asked for files in the ISL kickbacks case to aid their ongoing investigation of alleged racketeering by international football executives.
ISL was found to have routinely bribed top sports officials, including Blatter's predecessor as FIFA president, Joao Havelange, before it collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001. The British Broadcasting Corporation aired a program on Monday alleging it had seen a letter obtained by the FBI that was written by Havelange and said Blatter had "full knowledge" of kickback payments in the 1990s, when he was FIFA's general secretary.
The ISL case dogged FIFA and Blatter through a criminal trial of six agency executives in 2008. Two years ago, FIFA declared the case closed after its Ethics Committee determined that three longtime Executive Committee members had taken bribes: Havelange, his former son-in-law, Ricardo Teixeira, and Nicolas Leoz.
'Clumsy,' but no misconduct
The Ethics Committee judge, Joachim Eckert, found that Blatter's behavior did not amount to "any criminal or ethical misconduct." Eckert, however, found that Blatter had been "clumsy," when in March 1997 he sent back a payment of 1.5 million Swiss francs (then $1 million), which arrived for Havelange at FIFA headquarters - from ISL.
Blatter, who is serving a provisional 90-day ban from FIFA over corruption allegations, has said he will step down on February 26, when his successor is to be elected at an extraordinary congress in Zurich.