Billionaire’s Claim of FIFA Election Fraud Said to Be Dismissed

FIFA will reject an official complaint of electoral fraud made by a billionaire Korean businessman who wants to become the global soccer body’s next president, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Chung Mong-Joon, FIFA’s honorary vice president, made the accusation against the Asian Football Confederation, which represents 47 of FIFA’s 209 members. The AFC sent out letters to most of its member associations asking them to back favorite Michel Platini, who leads European soccer body UEFA.

FIFA is holding an emergency election to replace outgoing president Sepp Blatter, 79, who’s stepping down after the U.S. Department of Justice brought unprecedented corruption charges against the 111-year-old organization. Chung’s claim is only the latest to roil the process. FIFA is also investigating a complaint by UEFA that an employee distributed a document smearing Platini.

Chung, the second-largest shareholder in shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., will get an official response from the electoral committee’s head Domenico Scala as early as Thursday, the person said. FIFA directed inquiries to a spokesman for the electoral committee. He declined to comment, citing rules on neutrality.

Earlier Thursday in Seoul, Chung, 63, said the AFC had sent unsolicited letters to members urging them to vote for Platini, a former French soccer star who was a Blatter ally before becoming a critic. After producing the letter, Chung claimed the AFC’s intervention threatened to “undermine the fairness” of the Feb. 26 election.

“It is an obvious case of election fraud infringing on the basic rights of other presidential candidates,” Chung said. The AFC’s president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa has publicly backed Platini. The AFC said in a statement that its members were free to back any candidate of their choice. The poll will be a secret ballot.

Previous presidential elections have also prompted complaints. Blatter was re-elected in 2011 after his only rival withdrew when it emerged that envelopes stuffed with $40,000 had been handed out to voters in the Caribbean. Blatter’s first election victory in 1998 was marred by accusations that envelopes were slipped under voters’ doors on the eve of his victory. Blatter has denied distributing the cash.

Under pressure from the media and sponsors of its $5 billion World Cup, FIFA has pledged to consider reforms.

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