New criminal probe targets ex-Fifa president Blatter

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Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter is the target of a new investigation in Switzerland for suspected criminal mismanagement of a million-dollar payment from football funds.

Blatter has been notified by Swiss federal prosecutors that he is an "accused person" over a loan Fifa gave in 2010 to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, according to a document seen by the Associated Press.

The 84-year-old has denied any wrongdoing during decades of financial scandals linked to football's world governing body, though he was banned from the presidency and now risks being brought to trial in his home country.

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The payment from a Fifa account on April 13 2010 was interest-free, unsecured and later waived as a kind of gift, the document said.

It is the latest allegation in Swiss and American federal investigations tying Fifa to irregular payments benefiting Jack Warner, its former vice president from Trinidad, who is fighting extradition to the US.

Jack Warner
Jack Warner (Shirley Bahadur/AP)

Warner long controlled a key bloc in Fifa elections until he left football after being implicated in bribing voters to oppose Blatter in 2011. He was also an elected legislator in the Caribbean nation and became a government minister after a general election in May 2010.

Two former senior Fifa officials – Jerome Valcke as secretary general and Markus Kattner as finance director – are also named as accused persons in the document.

The new investigation is dated May 13, several weeks after the office said it was closing one of two criminal proceedings opened against Blatter five years earlier.

The dropped allegation was that Blatter mismanaged a World Cup broadcast deal for the Caribbean that let Warner personally profit by millions of dollars.

That prosecution decision revealed in April suggested Blatter would be cleared by Swiss officials after years under suspicion and while serving a six-year ban by Fifa's ethics committee. It expires in October next year.

The Swiss prosecution document does not directly link the timing of Fifa's million-dollar (£800,000) payment with the general election in Trinidad and Tobago.

Green Point Stadium in Cape Town
Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, in the 2010 World Cup (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Warner did try to link Fifa officials to his domestic political career in a June 2015 television appearance in his home country. That came within days of Blatter announcing plans to resign his 17-year Fifa presidency in fallout from the American and Swiss federal investigations.

Warner had been an opposition legislator since 2007. After a transition of power in the May 2010 election, he became minister for works and transport.

He was voted out of his parliamentary seat in 2015 several months after being indicted by the US Department of Justice.

The corruption charges against Warner included getting a 10 million dollar (£8 million) bribe from 2010 World Cup host South Africa routed through Fifa.

A fresh indictment published in April alleged Warner was paid 5 million dollars (£4 million) by Russian interests to support the country's winning bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Warner dismissed the allegations in comments reported by Trinidadian media.

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