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 Saturday, May 4, 2002 16:55 EST

Zen-Ruffinen alleges ex-FIFA chief got $55K from current president

[Reuters]

ZURICH -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been accused of corruption by the general secretary of world soccer's governing body Michel Zen-Ruffinen in an explosive report presented to the executive committee.

Zen-Ruffinen alleges in his "strictly confidential" 21-page dossier -- obtained by Reuters -- that the 66-year-old Blatter has systematically mismanaged FIFA by deception, illegal payments, violating the statutes and cronyism since becoming president in 1998.

Blatter, who is standing for re-election on May 29 against Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, expressed his strong disappointment on Saturday about the latest developments in his conflict with Zen-Ruffinen.

"It is obvious that confidentiality cannot be ensured within our own body. This development, for which I accept no responsibility, is a damning indictment of the style of those involved, and a development that I deeply regret," Blatter wrote in a letter to the Executive Committee released in a FIFA statement on Saturday.

Blatter, who was travelling to China on Saturday, said he would analyse Zen-Ruffinen's allegations before answering in writing the various points raised by the General Secretary, whose behaviour will also be addressed.

Zen-Ruffinen gave Blatter one week to reply to all the allegations, or else he will place the matter in the hands of the Swiss authorities.

On Friday, Blatter had responded to Zen-Ruffinen's allegations by saying at a news conference attended by both men: "There is no crisis at FIFA. This is all a total misunderstanding. I will reply in writing within a week."

Zen-Ruffinen, sitting next to Blatter, said: "I am really looking forward to those answers."

Zen-Ruffinen goes into minute detail in his charges, which he has backed with filed evidence and affidavits from witnesses. In his report the FIFA general secretary says Blatter made "an undue payment to an executive committee member."

Zen-Ruffinen states: "Towards the end of 2000, the president decided that an ExCo (executive committee) member should receive the remuneration paid to the ExCo members from July 1998, although he became a member in August 2000 only.

"The president instructed the CFO (chief financial officer) through one of the employees of the finance division to pay to said ExCo member $100,000 for the period 1998-2000. This was duly executed by the CFO.

Zen-Ruffinen also says there was an attempt by Blatter to instigate a campaign against Farah Addo of Somalia, the vice president of the African Football Confederation (CAF), who is leading Hayatou's bid to replace Blatter in the election for the presidency.

In March Addo made allegations against the FIFA president, which a Swiss court last month ordered him not to repeat.

Zen-Ruffinen says in his report the executive committee has agreed in principle to a "disciplinary investigation" of Mr Addo, but adds that Blatter interfered in the process by calling on the chairman of the disciplinary committee and the committee secretary to a meeting in his office to discuss the procedure.

Zen-Ruffinen then alleges that Blatter paid money to a former FIFA referee for making statements about Mr Addo.

"The president, who attended partially the meeting, handed out to him in front of two FIFA employees a check for $25,000 mentioning that (the former referee) would receive an additional $25,000 if the information he provided would suit the purposes of the president."

Zen-Ruffinen also highlights the relationship between Blatter and one of his staunchest supporters, FIFA vice-president Jack Warner.

He says the president has "constantly taken decisions which are favourable to the economical interests of Jack Warner and some of his family members, and thus are contrary to the financial interests of FIFA."

Warner has just been re-elected president of the CONCACAF Confederation comprising North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Zen-Ruffinen also reveals that a company employing a son of Warner's in a leading position was paid more than one million dollars for an internet project in a deal authorised by the president and that another son has also benefited from his family associations.

Zen-Ruffinen drops 'bombshell' at FIFA meeting

How Blatter built the most corrupt regime in sport

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