Swiss authorities ask FIFA for access to suspended general secretary's emails

Wed Sep 23, 2015 5:21pm EDT
 
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By Mark Hosenball

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's Attorney General Michael Lauber has formally asked FIFA to give investigators access to the email accounts of the global soccer organization's suspended General Secretary Jerome Valcke."The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has requested FIFA to get access to all email accounts of Jerome Valcke," a spokesman for the office said in an email."These email accounts are under seal by FIFA so far. The OAG has not received access to J. Valcke's email accounts until today due to FIFA sealing them."Valcke, the second-in-command to President Sepp Blatter at FIFA, was put on leave and "released from his duties" last Thursday after allegations he was involved in a plan to re-sell 2014 World Cup tickets at a big mark-up, pending an investigation by the FIFA ethics committee.A source close to FIFA said late on Wednesday in response to questions from Reuters that it was never the organization's intent to withhold Valcke's emails from prosecutors and that it was likely they will be handed over to the Attorney General's office on Thursday. A FIFA spokesperson said: "We are committed to collaborating with the authorities and it is an ongoing process."Access to emails could give Swiss investigators insight into potentially valuable information about Valcke's work, and that of other officials, within the troubled body.Swiss investigators have been looking into FIFA corruption in a parallel probe to that being carried out by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). In May the DOJ indicted 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives on a series of corruption-related charges, with seven arrested in Zurich just before a FIFA congress.Valcke, a 54-year-old Frenchman, has been in the job for the past eight years and is the highest profile figure in the corruption-plagued organization to be targeted during the current series of scandals.Ticket dealer Benny Alon produced documents last week claiming there was a deal between his company, JB Sports Marketing, and Valcke. The former Israeli soccer player said he agreed in 2013 to pay cash to Valcke to secure plum World Cup tickets in Brazil. He said the plan was to then to sell the tickets to fans at a markup and split the proceeds with Valcke, though he added that the deal was never completed."As for JB Sports Marketing, FIFA has delivered information to the OAG," said the spokesman for the OAG.Valcke's lawyer last week "unequivocally" denied the allegations, labeling them as "fabricated and outrageous".The Valcke case was handed over on Thursday to the Investigatory Chamber of FIFA's Ethics Committee and he could face a possible ban from future involvement in the game if he is found to have broken FIFA ethics rules.Lauber said last week that his investigation had so far gathered around 11 terabytes of electronic data and that 121 different bank accounts have been flagged for suspicious activity.The Attorney General also said that his office had conducted house searches in western Switzerland and seized apartments in the Swiss mountains that may have been used to launder money.

(Writing by Simon Evans; Edited by Martin Howell)

 
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke attends a news conference during his visit to Samara, one of the 2018 World Cup host cities, Russia, June 10, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev