ZURICH (Reuters) - Former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke became the latest high-profile soccer official to be kicked out of the sport when he was banned for 12 years on Friday after causing “considerable financial damage” to its scandal-plagued governing body.
Valcke was found guilty by FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert of misconduct over the sale of World Cup tickets, abuse of travel expenses, attempting to sell TV rights below their market value and destruction of evidence.
“Valcke acted against FIFA’s best interests and caused considerable financial damage to FIFA, while his private and personal interests detracted him from his ability to properly perform his duties as the Secretary General of FIFA,” FIFA’s ethics committee said in a statement.
The Frenchman, whose job was to ensure the smooth running of FIFA and in particular its flagship World Cup tournament, had been right-hand man to now banned president Sepp Blatter for nearly eight years.
FIFA is mired in the worst crisis in its 111-year history, with corruption investigations under way in Switzerland and the United States. Several dozen people including senior football officials have been indicted.
The ethics committee has already banned Blatter and European soccer boss Michel Platini for eight years apiece. More than a dozen other officials have been suspended over the last four years.
Valcke’s U.S. lawyer Barry Berke said in a statement that the ethics committee “is not a credible, independent or objective decision-making body.”
He described its Friday decision as “unsupported, unjust and politically motivated” and said Valcke’s evidence had been ignored.
“Mr. Valcke is confident that when all the facts come out, it will be clear that he did absolutely nothing wrong in carrying out his duties for the good of FIFA and the sport.”
Valcke was initially investigated over potential misconduct linked to the sale of tickets for FIFA World Cups. Other cases were uncovered by Cornel Borbely, FIFA’s chief ethics investigator, during the course of the inquiry, the ethics committee statement said.
It was found that Valcke had traveled at FIFA’s expense for “purely sightseeing reasons” and had repeatedly chosen private flights over commercial ones “without any business rationale for doing so.”
“Mr Valcke gained an advantage for himself and relatives,” said the statement.
The investigation also found that Valcke attempted to grant the 2018 and 2022 World Cup television and marketing rights for the Caribbean region to a third party for a fee which was “far below their actual market value”, said the statement.
In another incident, Valcke “deliberately tried to obstruct the ongoing proceedings against him by attempting to delete or deleting several files and folders relevant to the investigation,” the statement said.
In all he was found to have violated seven articles of the FIFA code of ethics including its general rules of conduct, loyalty, confidentiality, duty of disclosure, conflicts of interest, offering and accepting gifts and obligation to collaborate.
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.
Yet within months of that settlement, Valcke was not only back at FIFA but was at the helm of the administration as general secretary, answering directly to Blatter.
Valcke was widely credited for getting the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments, held in South Africa and Brazil respectively, up and running in time after delays in the preparations.
During the run-up to the 2014 tournament, he caused a row by saying that Brazil needed a “kick up the backside” to get the tournament ready on time.
Valcke was put on leave by FIFA in September and dismissed in January by FIFA’s emergency committee. He had already implied that he would stand down following the Feb. 26 election for Blatter’s replacement.
Reporting by Brian Homewood; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Ralph Boulton