Originally created 05/04/02

World soccer official calls for investigation



ZURICH, Switzerland - FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen called Friday for a criminal investigation into possible corruption within the world soccer governing body.

The No. 2 international soccer official said it was time for FIFA to "clean its house."

Zen-Ruffinen and FIFA President Sepp Blatter spoke to reporters after a 10-hour meeting of FIFA's ruling Executive Committee. The meeting pitted Blatter against opponents such as UEFA President Lennart Johansson, who left the session before the end.

FIFA Vice President Chung Mong-joon, the head of South Korean soccer, also left the committee session. He later released a statement saying FIFA was facing "the most serious integrity problem" of its existence and accusing Blatter of trying to usurp the authority of the committee.

Much of the meeting centered on a report by Zen-Ruffinen, who runs FIFA's day-to-day operations. He was a close ally of Blatter for years but has split with the president.

Zen-Ruffinen said his 25-page report detailed "actions that could be part of a criminal investigation and which show there could be corruption in the organization."

In recent media interviews, Zen-Ruffinen made a series of allegations about mismanagement and impropriety, including voter fraud and theft of documents.

He said Friday that his executive committee report highlighted "misleading accounting practices" within FIFA, "conflicts of interest" and claims that a family member of a top Caribbean soccer official had impersonated Haiti's delegate at the 1998 FIFA congress, which elected Blatter.

Blatter, sitting next to his former protege, said talk of criminal activities was "hazardous."

"I felt like I was in the wrong movie," he said. "I couldn't answer all questions directly. I will do so next week."

Zen-Ruffinen also has claimed Blatter supporters tried to stop him from testifying to an internal inquiry into FIFA's finances.

The audit was forced by Blatter's opponents on the executive committee, but Blatter then suspended the investigation citing breaches of confidentiality.

The executive committee decided Friday that the inquiry should continue after this summer's World Cup finals.

Zen-Ruffinen told newspapers the inquiry would have uncovered facts that would have damaged Blatter's re-election campaign.

Blatter claims the attacks against him are part of a bitter campaign for the FIFA presidency. The May 29 election will pit Blatter against a single challenger, African soccer head Issa Hayatou.

"It's election time, and in election time people try to find things that can touch other people," he said. "But taking the FIFA president apart is not easy to do."