FIFA presidential contender Chung calls Blatter ‘hypocrite’
LONDON (AP) FIFA presidential contender Chung Mong-joon called Sepp Blatter a ”hypocrite and a liar” on Wednesday and said he is planning to sue the outgoing president for at least $100 million.
The 79-year-old Blatter is being investigated by Swiss authorities for financial misconduct. He denies any wrongdoing and told a German magazine that he will stay in power until the election on Feb. 26. But Chung said he believes Blatter should pay for the damage he has caused FIFA during a 40-year career, including the last 17 as president.
”Mr. Blatter is a hypocrite and a liar,” Chung, a member of the FIFA executive committee until 2011, said in a speech in London. ”I plan to sue Mr. Blatter on his embezzlement in court.”
Chung said his legal action would be launched in the Swiss courts, and pledged to return any damages to FIFA.
”My understanding is the amount of money I can claim against President Blatter is in proportion to the amount of damage he inflicted on FIFA,” Chung said.
Some of that damage, according to Chung, is Blatter being paid an undisclosed salary which was not approved by the FIFA executive committee.
Chung also highlighted FIFA’s $90 million damages settlement in 2007 after soccer’s governing body was sued by ousted sponsor Mastercard for not honoring contractual agreements when rights were awarded to Visa.
Chung went on to reference one of the most toxic elements of Blatter’s FIFA career: the kickback scandal of FIFA’s former marketing agency partner ISL.
As general secretary in March 1997, before being elected leader the following year, Blatter returned a 1.5 million Swiss franc payment from ISL to then-president Joao Havelange, which mistakenly arrived at FIFA. Blatter’s action ”may have been clumsy” but was not misconduct, a FIFA ethics report found.
”At FIFA, money and power have blinded Mr. Blatter to the values of sportsmanship,” added Chung, a former FIFA vice president. ”Preposterously, Mr. Blatter and his associates are under the delusion that they are above human values and norms.”
But Chung himself is currently the subject of an ethics committee investigation for breaches relating to South Korea’s failed bid for the 2022 World Cup and for openly criticizing the investigation.
Chung calls it an attempt by FIFA his undermine his candidacy to replace Blatter and he said he plans to pursue a separate legal case to ensure he can stand in the election. But he wasn’t even sure if he had five federation nominations required.
”I hope I do. That’s a very good question,” Chung said.
Blatter is determined to stay in power until the election, but he could also be suspended by the FIFA ethics committee before then.
”I can assure you that I’ll stop on Feb. 26, 2016,” Blatter was quoted as telling German lifestyle magazine Bunte in an interview published Wednesday. ”That’s definitely the end. But not a day sooner. By then we’ll have found a really good candidate who’ll make a great new president.”
In the interview, Blatter said he is being ”convicted without any evidence of any wrongdoing on my part.”
Blatter was questioned last month by Swiss investigators about broadcasting contracts sold to disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack Warner in 2005 that were supposedly undervalued.
The investigation also centers on whether Blatter approved a ”disloyal payment” of 2 million Swiss francs in 2011 from FIFA to UEFA President Michel Platini for work carried out at least nine years earlier.
”This is just an investigation, no charges. I’m dealing with the process and cooperating with the authorities,” Blatter said. ”I’m well. I’ll survive it. FIFA is still functioning well and the elected president is staying in office.”
FIFA sponsors McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch called for Blatter to quit last Friday but the president rebuffed those demands.
”They’re only the Americans. I’ll be in contact with our partners again,” Blatter said. ”Adidas in Germany, Gazprom in Russia and Hyundai and Kia in South Korea are still behind me as before.”
Associated Press writer Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report.