Interpol places former FIFA officials on 'red notice' list

The international police agency acted a day after FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced plans to step down from his post.

Pawel Kopczynski/REUTERS
The homepage of the Interpol website is seen through a magnifying glass in this picture illustration taken in Berlin, Germany June 3, 2015. Interpol said on Wednesday it has issued international wanted-person alerts for two former FIFA officials including Jack Warner and four corporate executives at the request of US authorities as part of a corruption probe. Interpol said it issued so-called red notices -- not an international arrest warrant -- for Warner, former President of CONCACAF, which governs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Nicolas Leoz, the former head of South America's soccer federation. The others are Alejandro Burzaco, Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis, who are among soccer officials and sports media and promotion executives hit with U.S. graft charges involving more than $150 million in bribes, and Jose Margulies, a Brazilian citizen who headed two offshore companies that were involved in the broadcasting of soccer matches.

Interpol put two top former FIFA officials on its "red notice" wanted list at the request of US authorities on Wednesday as their investigation into corruption at soccer's governing body gathered pace.

The move by the international police body came the day after FIFA President Sepp Blatter stunned world soccer by resigning shortly before it emerged that he was also under investigation by US law enforcement. Blatter was not on Interpol's list.

A source close to FIFA said it was Blatter's advisers who had told him he must reverse course and quit. Critics pointed to the widening criminal probe, disquiet among sponsors, and pressure from European soccer body UEFA as possible reasons.

With Blatter saying he no longer had the mandate he sought, UEFA postponed a meeting due on Saturday at which there might have been talk of a revolt against FIFA.

UEFA had opposed Blatter, and Michel Platini, the UEFA president who is favorite to succeed the 79-year-old Swiss national, had urged him not to stand for re-election as FIFA faced the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

"Considering new information is revealed every day, I believe it is wiser to take time to assess the situation, so together we can take a position on this issue," Platini, a former French soccer star, said.

As the FIFA crisis unfolds, Interpol issued international wanted person alerts for Jack Warner, former president of CONCACAF, which governs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Nicolas Leoz, the former head of South America's soccer federation.

The others subject to the so-called "red notices" -- not arrest warrants -- are Alejandro Burzaco, Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis, and Jose Margulies, a Brazilian who headed two offshore companies that were involved in broadcasting soccer matches.

They are among soccer officials and sports media and promotion executives facing US corruption charges involving more than $150 million in bribes.


FIFA has denied that another senior official, Secretary General Jerome Valcke, was involved in a $10 million payment approved by the South African Football Association that lies at the heart of the US investigation.

At a news conference in Johannesburg, sports minister Fikile Mbalula denied the payment to Warner during South Africa's successful bid for the 2010 World Cup was a bribe. Mbalula said South Africa had not bought votes for the right to host the cup.

US legal authorities last week announced they are investigating alleged bribery and corruption at FIFA going back 24 years and Swiss prosecutors announced a criminal investigation into the award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

The Kremlin said Russia was surprised by Blatter's resignation but was pressing on with preparations for 2018.

Blatter, who has led FIFA for 17 years, is being investigated by US prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a person who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters late on Tuesday.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, on a visit to Latvia, declined to comment on whether Blatter is under investigation.

Blatter has not been charged and FIFA did not respond to a request for comment on his being under investigation.

Blatter announced his decision to step down on Tuesday, six days after police raided a hotel in the city and arrested several FIFA officials - and just four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term as president.

An election to choose a new president will probably not take place until at least December. Blatter, meanwhile, remains in his position.

His daughter, Corinne Blatter-Andenmatten, told a Swiss newspaper her father's decision had "absolutely nothing" to do with recent corruption allegations.

But FIFA executive committee member Kozo Tashima of Japan told Japanese media that Blatter should go at once.


European sports officials said Blatter's resignation was an important step, but that the organization needed deeper changes.

"Beyond the people, structural reforms must be undertaken," said French Sports State Secretary Thierry Braillard.

New Zealand Football Chief Executive Andy Martin said soccer must now rebuild its tattered reputation.

"This has lifted a cloud and taken away a lot of the concerns of stakeholders and their association with the sport," he told Reuters.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which has been a staunch ally of Blatter, said it would discuss internally the "best way forward for both FIFA and world football."

As Blatter announced his exit, English Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke suggested that the controversial vote that awarded Qatar the 2022 tournament could be re-run.

Qatar Football Association President Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Thani hit back, indicating the small Gulf state will not give up hosting soccer's showpiece event without a fight. "We would urge Mr Dyke to let the legal process take its course and concentrate on delivering his promise to build an England team capable of winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar," he said.

Qatar's stock index fell as much as 3 percent to a 6-week low amid fears Qatar could lose the World Cup.


Among potential candidates to lead FIFA, Platini is the favorite.

Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who withdrew from last week's presidential election after winning 73 votes to Blatter's 133 in the first round, stopped short of confirming he would run again. Asked if there should be a fresh start at FIFA, he told Britain's Channel 4 News: "I'm willing to help."

Chung Mong-joon, billionaire scion of South Korea's Hyundai conglomerate, said he would "carefully consider" running.

Possible candidates include Domenico Scala, independent chairman of FIFA's audit and compliance committee.

Former Brazil international Zico, 62, did not rule out a bid, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proposed Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona.

Others include Jerome Champagne, a former French diplomat and FIFA deputy secretary general, and German Wolfgang Niersbach, a former sports journalist and FIFA media chief.

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