Sepp Blatter told AFP Wednesday he was “very surprised” that French authorities had seized documents from the country’s football federation in connection with a Swiss criminal investigation in which he is the target.
“I am very surprised by this,” Blatter, FIFA’s former president, said after the Swiss attorney general announced that French authorities had searched the French Football Federation (FFF) headquarters.
The raid seized documents linked to Blatter’s infamous 2.0-million Swiss franc ($2.0 million, 1.8 million euros) payment to UEFA’s fallen president Michel Platini.
Blatter said the search was surprising since the payment in question “was not made to FFF nor UEFA, but put into the private account of Michel Platini in a Swiss bank.”
“That is in fact how this (the payment) came to light, since this Swiss bank informed Swiss financial regulators at the time, because when a private person receives two million francs, there are alarm bells that ring,” he said.
Tuesday’s search in Paris was carried out “in connection with the criminal proceedings against Mr. Joseph Blatter,” the Swiss attorney general’s office said, adding that documents in connection with Blatter’s payment to Platini “were seized”.
Platini worked for FIFA from 1999 to 2002 while he was based in Paris, and had the assistance of two colleagues who were also paid by world football’s governing body.
“These contracts were between FIFA and the FFF, and between the two employees (who worked with Platini), Odile Lanceau and Alain Leiblang, who FIFA paid as of 1999.
“But they have nothing to do with Michel Platini’s contract,” Blatter said.
The announcement that FFF’s offices had been searched came just a day ahead of Blatter’s 80th birthday, but the former FIFA chief said he believed the timing was “a coincidence”.
“I don’t think that the Swiss prosecutors office considered that it was the day before my birthday,” he said, adding that the announcement would not spoil his celebrations.
“I don’t see how this could ruin this lovely day (Thursday). We will have a family celebration of these 80 candles,” he said.
“They wanted to make me a cake and have me blow out 80 candles, but I said: ‘Life is light, and it is not at the age of 80 that I will blow out the light on a cake. I won’t blow out my life,” Blatter told AFP in a telephone interview.
Blatter, who worked for FIFA for four decades and spent 18 years at its helm before he was forced out in disgrace amid a mammoth scandal still rocking world football, is set to celebrate his birthday at a Zurich hotel Thursday with around 100 guests. – Agence France-Presse