- Soccer governing body calls for an ethics committee probe
- Valcke said to be suspended after talks with FIFA fell through
Soccer’s governing body suspended President Sepp Blatter’s number two, Jerome Valcke, saying “a series of allegations” led it to act immediately and call for an ethics investigation into FIFA’s secretary general.
While Valcke was one of the FIFA officials most damaged by revelations from a U.S. probe alleging two decades of corruption at the organization, he wasn’t named in an indictment unsealed May 27.
The 54-year-old Frenchman’s exit comes hours after media reports in Europe and South America implicated him in a scheme to sell World Cup tickets at inflated prices. He denied those allegations. Separately, Valcke -- who has been Blatter’s chief lieutenant since 2007 -- has been linked to a $10 million payment U.S. prosecutors contend was a bribe. It was allegedly paid by South African officials to Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice president charged in the U.S., in exchange for winning the bid to host the 2010 World Cup. Valcke said the payment was legitimate and part of a development project.
“Jerome Valcke unequivocally denies the fabricated and outrageous accusations” related to the ticket sales, Valcke’s lawyer Barry Berke said in an e-mailed statement.
Valcke had been in negotiations to leave FIFA last week but the organization decided to suspend him immediately when they couldn’t reach an agreement, a person with knowledge of the situation said, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. The ticket-scalping allegations forced the issue for FIFA, but weren’t the only reason for the move, the person said.
Valcke spent Thursday in meetings at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, scrapping plans to travel to 2018 World Cup host Russia, the person said. Valcke had said in July that he planned to step down at the same time as Blatter, who announced just days after winning a fifth presidential term in the wake of the May arrests that he would leave office. He’ll formally relinquish the role in February when his successor is chosen.
Valcke was suspended for leaking details of World Cup sponsorship talks with MasterCard Inc. to its rival, Visa Inc., in a case that FIFA settled in 2007 for $90 million. He was rehired by Blatter and promoted to secretary general.