Sepp Blatter faces judgment by FIFA ethics court he created

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Sepp Blatter to Attend FIFA Ethics Committee Hearing; Platini to Skip


ZURICH (AP) -- Sepp Blatter will be trying to save his presidency on Thursday at the FIFA ethics committee he helped create and whose authority he does not recognize in his case.

The suspended FIFA president is expected to tell four judges he is innocent of wrongdoing during the hearing at the headquarters of soccer's governing body, the first time Blatter has entered the building since he was banned for 90 days in October.

In 2012, Blatter was key to empowering a tougher and more independent FIFA ethics committee that he now insists cannot remove an elected president.

"Now it has come back to haunt him," Mark Pieth, a former anti-corruption adviser to FIFA, told The Associated Press this week.

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With a large bandage on his face, Blatter arrived at FIFA headquarters shortly after 8 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) in a chauffeur-driven car for a hearing that was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. A spokesman for Blatter, Thomas Renggli, said the Swiss official has had a minor procedure to treat a skin problem on his right cheek.

His lead lawyer at the hearing is Lorenz Erni.

Blatter risks a life ban if the verdict - due early next week - is guilty for approving a payment of about $2 million from FIFA to Michel Platini in 2011. Platini has also been banned for 90 days.

Otherwise, Blatter could be banned for several years for a conflict of interest between the two longtime FIFA executive committee colleagues. He is also likely to be quizzed about falsifying FIFA accounts.

In a Swiss television interview last month, Blatter said it is "humiliating" for a FIFA president to be barred from office by his own ethics committee. He also said the ethics committee he ushered in after a previous corruption crisis had no right to take him down.

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Sepp Blatter faces judgment by FIFA ethics court he created
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a press conference at the headquarters of the world's football governing body in Zurich on June 2, 2015. Blatter resigned as president of FIFA as a mounting corruption scandal engulfed world football's governing body. The 79-year-old Swiss official, FIFA president for 17 years and only reelected days ago, said a special congress would be called to elect a successor. AFP PHOTO / VALERIANO DI DOMENICO (Photo credit should read VALERIANO DI DOMENICO/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA president Sepp Blatter attends a press conference on May 30, 2015 in Zurich after being re-elected during the FIFA Congress. Blatter said he was 'shocked' at the way the US judiciary has targeted football's world body and slammed what he called a 'hate' campaign by Europe's football leaders. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter walks after a press conference at the headquarters of the world's football governing body in Zurich on June 2, 2015. Blatter resigned as president of FIFA as a mounting corruption scandal engulfed world football's governing body. The 79-year-old Swiss official, FIFA president for 17 years and only reelected days ago, said a special congress would be called to elect a successor. (Photo credit Valeriano Di Domenico, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures after being re-elected following a vote to decide on the FIFA presidency in Zurich on May 29, 2015. Sepp Blatter won the FIFA presidency for a fifth time Friday after his challenger Prince Ali bin al Hussein withdrew just before a scheduled second round. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures after being re-elected following a vote to decide on the FIFA presidency in Zurich on May 29, 2015. Sepp Blatter won the FIFA presidency for a fifth time Friday after his challenger Prince Ali bin al Hussein withdrew just before a scheduled second round. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL BUHOLZER (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BUHOLZER/AFP/Getty Images)
A man wearing a mask depicting FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding Swiss Francs stands next to a woman holding a banner reading 'Game over for Blatter' during a protest held in front of the Hallenstadium where the 65th FIFA Congress takes place in Zurich on May 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL BUHOLZER (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BUHOLZER/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter leaves at the end of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) regional Congress on April 30, 2015 in the Bahraini capital Manama. Sepp Blatter closed on a fifth term as FIFA president as a key ally, Asia's soccer boss, won new powers and silenced dissent at a regional congress in Bahrain. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures during the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015. FIFA leader Sepp Blatter joined figures who have questioned the timing of a police raid to arrest top football figures just two days ahead of a presidential vote by the world body. Blatter also told the FIFA congress that the world body might not be embroiled in its corruption scandal if Russia and Qatar had not been awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures as he speaks during the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 28, 2015. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on May 28 that the scandal-tainted football body faces 'more bad news' and that officials accused of corruption had brought shame and humiliation on the organisation. But the 79-year-old Swiss official told the opening of FIFA's annual congress he could not be blamed for the latest controversy to hit the body saying he could not 'monitor' every official. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter shows the name of France, after FIFA's executive committee on March 19, 2015 decided that France will host the 2019 women's World Cup. FIFA's executive committee started a two-day meeting on March 19 to decide the dates of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and announce their decision on the 2019 women's World Cup. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gives a thumb up at the opening of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015. FIFA president Sepp Blatter heads into a re-election vote amid FIFA's corruption scandal on May 29, 2015 adamant that only he can clean up the world's most popular sport, to the dismay of critics who want to issue a red card to his 17-year rule. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
President of International governing body of association football FIFA Sepp Blatter holds the FIFA statutes during an interview on May 15, 2015 at the of organization's headquarters in Zurich. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two spectators hold signs reading "Out Blatter", referring to newly re-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter during the quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament between Spain's Garbine Muguruza and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter attends the Ordinary UEFA Congress in Vienna, Austria on March 24, 2015. The annual congress of European football's governing body is expected to focus on elections for UEFA Presidency, UEFA Executive Committee and FIFA Executive Committee. AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA president Sepp Blatter attends a press conference on May 30, 2015 in Zurich after being re-elected during the FIFA Congress. Blatter said he was 'shocked' at the way the US judiciary has targeted football's world body and slammed what he called a 'hate' campaign by Europe's football leaders. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Only the FIFA congress can remove a president, Blatter said at the time.

In July 2012, FIFA moved from an in-house committee monitoring unethical conduct to a two-chamber group of prosecutors and judges with freedom and funding to pursue cases.

Pieth led a group of anti-corruption experts and soccer officials who steered Blatter and FIFA toward modernizing reforms from 2012-14. Not all were accepted, but the two-chamber ethics court was crucial.

"It must be said that he (Blatter) was the one who pushed it through congress," Pieth, a Swiss professor of law, said in a telephone interview. "That was the moment we all believed he is serious, at least about the letter of the changes."

Blatter complained about the ethics committee's power to Russian news agency TASS after his 90-day ban was imposed.

"They can be independent but they don't need to be against me," he was quoted as saying in October.

Blatter was charged by the ethics committee after Switzerland's attorney general opened criminal proceedings against him for the payment to Platini, who is boycotting his own ethics hearing on Friday.

The case centers on Platini getting about $2 million of FIFA money as uncontracted salary for working as Blatter's presidential adviser in 1999-2002.

Platini asked for a salary of 1 million Swiss francs. Blatter has said the former France international had a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs, plus a "gentleman's agreement" to get the rest later.

Swiss law obliged FIFA only to pay the deferred money within five years but Platini, by then UEFA president, reportedly asked for the balance in 2010 and was paid in February 2011.

The timing has raised suspicion, coming months before a presidential election when UEFA urged its members to support Blatter against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Blatter won unopposed after Bin Hammam was implicated in bribing Caribbean voters.

On Thursday, Blatter also faces questions about false accounting because FIFA's debt to Platini was not recorded in financial reports from 2002-2011.

"The first part of the payment is in the accounts, the second no, but I am not a FIFA accountant," Blatter said in an interview with Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport this week. "And what was or wasn't in the accounts, was a debt to pay."

If he is found guilty, Blatter can appeal to FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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