FBI Probing Role of FIFA's Blatter in Bribery Scandal, BBC Says

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Suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Photographer: Michel Buholzer/AFP via Getty Images
  • British broadcaster says it's seen letter obtained by FBI
  • Global corruption probe has led to charges against 27 people

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing suspended FIFA chief Sepp Blatter’s role in a $100 million bribery scandal, the BBC reported.

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Twenty-seven people have been charged over alleged corruption at soccer’s world governing body, with 16 of those defendants named in a federal indictment unsealed Dec. 3 in Brooklyn, New York.

Blatter, who has led the organization since 1998, has denied knowledge of wrongdoing. He and two other FIFA officials were suspended for 90 days by its ethics panel in October.

A sports marketing company, International Sport and Leisure, paid a total of $100 million, including payments to two men, one of whom was indicted former Brazilian soccer chief Ricardo Teixeira, the other ex-FIFA president Joao Havelange of Brazil, according to the BBC. In exchange for that money, ISL received lucrative television and marketing rights throughout the 1990s, the BBC said.

No Action

Blatter denied knowing about the bribes and took no action, the BBC said. The BBC said one of its reporters has seen a copy of a letter in possession of the FBI casting doubt on Blatter’s denial.

“The letter, apparently written by Havelange, talks about the payments he received from ISL. It says Blatter had ‘full knowledge of all activities’ and was ‘always apprised’ of them,” according to the BBC.

The letter was included with the FBI’s request for help from Swiss authorities with its investigation, the BBC said. The bureau is seeking records from an earlier Swiss probe into ISL bribes, according to the BBC.

Reached by Bloomberg News, Blatter’s lawyer Richard Cullen declined to comment on the BBC report, beyond saying his client was cooperating with the U.S. investigation. The FBI national press office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment outside of regular business hours.

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