SEPP BLATTER was yesterday still trying to justify his actions in paying an African referee $25,000 and offering him more money for information – a move which Sportsmail believes was aimed at discrediting the insider who triggered the crisis in confidence surrounding the FIFA president.
Forced on to the offensive after 11 members of his executive committee started a Swiss court action alleging misuse of funds, with criminal proceedings a real possibility, Blatter spent 90 minutes trying to fend off accusations at FIFA House in Zurich.
But his latest attempts to explain why he had given Niger referee Lucien Bouchardeau money from his own pocket, while promising more payments, will only add to the widespread unease which has led to the Football Association withdrawing its support from Blatter’s re-election campaign.
The FA is adamant that the stench of corruption around the world governing body makes it impossible to support Blatter’s bid for a second term in office.
Now Wales is left isolated as the only British backer of the tarnished president.
Yesterday Blatter also tried to explain why Russian administrator Viacheslav Koloskov had been paid $100,000 during two years when he had no official FIFA role, another key charge levied by the group of accusers including UEFA president Lennart Johansson and Scottish FIFA vice-president David Will.
They, along with four other Europeans, four African vice-presidents and Korean representative Chung Mong-Joon, took court action after reading a damning report by general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen.
One of the most damaging allegations in the report was that Blatter had flown Bouchardeau to Zurich, paid him $25,000 and offered more money if he could provide information to discredit Farah Addo, the Somalian vice-president of African football who first implicated Blatter in corrupt dealings.
The FIFA president, facing a tough fight for re-election against Cameroon candidate Issa Hayatou later this month, admitted handing over the cash – but left it to Walter Gagg, the grandly titled director of technical matters, stadiums and security, to explain in detail.
Gagg is said to have arranged for Bouchardeau to fly from his home in Paris to Zurich for a meeting on February 21, with Blatter claiming that he did not want the referee to go public with corruption claims first made in a phone call to FIFA House on January 10.
Reading from a prepared statement, Gagg revealed that Bouchardeau had been weeping with emotion over his desperate financial position, because ‘Addo and others had undermined his career’.
Gagg confirmed that Blatter left the meeting, returned a few moments later with a cheque for $25,000 drawn on his personal bank account, and then told Bouchardeau: ‘ Should the information you are giving us help to put an end to corruption in Africa, especially in refereeing, I will give you more money.’
Blatter, repeatedly refusing to answer detailed questions about the meeting, would say only that no further money had been paid to Bouchardeau, adding bizarrely: ‘I often give money to people who cry, not only in Switzerland but also abroad.’ The charges regarding Koloskov, who was paid two annual fees of $50,000 for membership of the executive committee which he did not hold, were dealt with by Blatter directly. He confessed: ‘I should have informed the financial committee of the payment.
‘But in those two years he was active for FIFA in the CIS countries, so we twice paid him $50,000. When I explained this to the executive committee, Lennart Johansson spontaneously said: « If you had submitted this, it would have been approved without any problem. »‘ Both instances are, say Blatter’s critics, examples of what Chung calls ‘doling out favours at FIFA’s expense’.
Even if Blatter gave Bouchardeau money from his own pocket, it was still FIFA who paid for his trip to Zurich.
As for what Koloskov did for his cash, the official explanation of arranging a benefit match and setting up the much-criticised GOAL programme in the CIS countries cuts little ice with cynics who see electioneering in every Blatter move.
On financial mismanagement, FIFA published its accounts yesterday and revealed that it expects to have to pay between 40 and 60 million Swiss francs ( £18-27million) because of the collapse of the ISL marketing arm.
Explaining having to pay out to a company which they had claimed owed FIFA hundreds of millions of francs, Blatter typically put that figure down as ‘not a loss, just a failure in profit’.