NEW YORK – FIFA President Sepp Blatter and its Secretary General Jerome Valcke have both hired high-powered US lawyers to represent them as a corruption proberoils soccer’s global governing body.
Blatter recently retained Richard Cullen, the chairman of the law firm McGuireWoods and a former US federal prosecutor, said a person familiar with the matter, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Separately, Blatter’s top lieutenant, Valcke, has hired prominent New York defense attorney Barry Berke, a second source said.
Blatter, 79, announced on June 2 that he would stand down as FIFA president, only four days after he was reelected to the position, saying he had lost the mandate from the entire world of soccer.
That followed US authorities’ indictment of nine current and former FIFA officials and five corporate executives for allegedly running a criminal enterprise that involved more than $150 million in bribes over 24 years.
US prosecutors have not accused Blatter or Valcke of wrongdoing. However, they believe Valcke was involved in $10 million
in FIFA bank transactions that are a key part of the investigation, a source said in early June.
Valcke said last week that while he had signed off on the transactions he had done nothing wrong, adding that allegations against him were “insanity.”
Among the issues the FBI is examining is Blatter’s stewardship of FIFA, sources have said. Blatter became president in 1998 and remains in the job pending an election that likely will not occur before December.
Investigations by US and Swiss authorities include scrutiny of how FIFA awarded World Cup hosting rights to Russia and Qatar.
Blatter has also retained Lorenz Erni, a top lawyer in Zurich, the first source said. Erni declined to comment earlier this week.
TIES TO COMEY
It was unclear whether the decisions by Blatter and Valcke to hire top US lawyers indicated increased scrutiny of them by US authorities. It is common in the United States for even potential witnesses to seek legal advice if they can afford it in order to protect their rights.
Cullen was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for US prosecutors declined to comment.
FIFA could not immediately be reached for comment outside business hours.
Prosecutors in Switzerland, where FIFA is based, have identified 53 suspicious bank transactions and could summon Blatter and FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke for questioning, Michael Lauber, the Swiss attorney general, told journalists on Wednesday.