ZURICH (Reuters) – FIFA’s ethics watchdog has recommended a nine-year ban for secretary-general Jerome Valcke over alleged corruption involving the sale of World Cup tickets, among the dozens of scandals rocking soccer’s crisis-plagued governing body.
Cornel Borbely, chief investigator for FIFA’s independent ethics committee, requested that Valcke be fined 100,000 Swiss francs after completing an investigation into the Frenchman’s conduct, the watchdog said in a statement.
The allegations against Valcke stem from former Israeli soccer player Benny Alon telling a news conference in September in Zurich that he agreed in 2013 to pay cash to Valcke to secure plum tickets for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He said the plan was to then sell the tickets to fans at a markup and split the proceeds with Valcke, who was right-hand man to banned president Sepp Blatter. Alon said the deal fell through and he never paid the soccer official.
A statement issued on behalf of Valcke’s U.S. lawyer said the ethics committee had “chosen to ignore Jerome Valcke’s exemplary conduct and extraordinary contributions during his long tenure as Secretary General”.
“Today’s press release is nothing more than a self-serving public relations effort to wrongly attack Mr. Valcke in a desperate attempt to try to prove that FIFA can police itself. Mr. Valcke did absolutely nothing wrong as any independent and fair review of the facts would establish.”
Valcke had been suspended for 90 days on Oct. 8 – a move almost overlooked amid the suspension then of Blatter and the charging of 41 people, including top FIFA officials, by U.S. prosecutors for offences including corruption, fraud and money laundering.
He had been placed on leave by FIFA less than a month earlier.
Borbely completed his investigation on the day that Valcke’s suspension was due to expire and requested that it be extended for a further 45 days pending a final decision in the case, the committee statement said.
His report, which alleged that Valcke had violated seven articles of the FIFA code of ethics, including ones on loyalty and conflicts of interest, has been handed to FIFA’s chief ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, who will decide on sanctions.
Valcke has already implied that he would stand down following February’s election for Blatter’s replacement.
Valcke joined FIFA in 2003 as marketing director but was fired in December 2006 for his part in botched sponsorship negotiations with credit card firms MasterCard Inc and Visa Inc.
Eight months later, he was re-hired as secretary general and oversaw the preparations for both the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
Blatter and UEFA boss Michel Platini, the two most powerful men in world soccer, were banned for eight years in December for ethics violations. Both deny wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood in Berne and Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Andrew Roche)