Fifa issue ‘criminal mismanagement’ complaint against disgraced Sepp Blatter over £421m Museum deal

Former Fifa president agreed ‘Haus zur Enge’ deal in the years before the governing body’s corruption scandal resulted in his resignation

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Tuesday 22 December 2020 11:19
Sepp Blatter announces his resignation

Fifa have issued a “criminal mismanagement” complaint to state prosecutors against disgraced former president Sepp Blatter and other management figures for allegeding costing the governing body “half a billion Swiss Francs that could and should have been channeled into the development of global football.”

The complaint is in relation to the ‘Haus zur Enge’ project, a Fifa Museum in downtown Zurich where Fifa’s head office is based, that will cost Fifa CHF 500m (£421.3m) by 2045.

According to Fifa, Blatter gave the go-ahead for the project that involved CF 140m (£118m) in “renovating and refurbishing a building that the organisation does not own” and a further CHF 360m (£303m) in a long-term rental agreement that does not expire for another 24 years - a deal that Fifa claim was signed on “unfavourable terms when compared to standard market rates”.

The complaint has been filed against Blatter, his former management team and companies who were appointed on their behalf, and stemmed from a financial audit of the deal triggered by the 2015 corruption scandal that exposed widespread bribery across the governing body.

“Given the massive costs associated with this Museum, as well as the general way of working of the previous Fifa management, a forensic audit was conducted in order to find out what really happened here,” said Fifa Deputy Secretary General (Administration) Alasdair Bell.

READ MORE: Legal proceedings launched against Fifa president Gianni Infantino 

It’s alleged that the audit revealed suspicious circumstances and management failures that may be criminal in nature, which Fifa have passed on to investigators.

“We came to the conclusion that we had no choice other than to report the case to state prosecutors, not least because the current management of Fifa also has fiduciary responsibilities to the organisation and we intend to live up to them,” Bell added.

The Haus zur Enge building features Fifa’s Global Museum on the first three floors of the 10-story building, which was renovated after Blatter announced to the Fifa Executive Committee in 2012 of his plans to invest in the historic property. As part of the deal, Fifa agreed a 40-year lease with Swiss Life, with construction completed on its renovation in December 2015 - shortly after Blatter was ousted as the head of international football following the corruption scandal. The remaining seven floors feature exhibition space, events and dining areas, 34 luxury apartments and office space for approximately 140 workstations.

The Museum was subsequently opened on 28 February 2016 by current Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who is currently the subject of legal proceedings in a separate Swiss investigation.

A Fifa statement read: “Fifa has lodged a criminal complaint with Zurich’s cantonal prosecutor as evidence of suspected criminal mismanagement by Fifa’s former management and companies appointed by them in relation to the ‘Haus zur Enge’ has surfaced following an investigation by external experts.

“The complaint identifies the direct involvement of former Fifa President Joseph S Blatter together with other persons in relation to activities relating to the agreements that were signed in relation to the facility, which is located in downtown Zurich.

“The complaint includes the entire project costs at CHF 500 million, and identifies that the previous Fifa administration poured CHF 140 million into renovating and refurbishing a building that the organisation doesn’t own, while also locking itself into a long-term rental agreement on unfavourable terms when compared to standard market rates, which, in total, will cost Fifa CHF 360 million by the date of expiration in 2045. That is half a billion Swiss Francs that could and should have been channeled into the development of global football.

Blatter was forced to resign in disgrace after the 2015 Fifa corruption scandal

“The current Fifa administration also intends to submit all documentation related to this matter to the independent Ethics Committee so that it may instigate whatever investigation it considers appropriate given the circumstances.

“In addition, Fifa will continue to cooperate with the authorities in Switzerland and elsewhere so that those people who damaged football are held accountable for their actions.”

Blatter has “vehemently” denied the allegations via his lawyer. "The accusations are baseless and are vehemently denied," his representative Lorenz Erni said in statement.

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