Blatter says FIFA corruption probe won't lead to him

Defiant Blatter Does Not Fear Arrest

ZURICH (AP) -- Having come through another FIFA election largely unscathed, Sepp Blatter was in a typically defiant mood Saturday when addressing the challenges that still lie ahead.

The 79-year-old FIFA president dismissed suggestions that a United States government investigation of corruption in football could lead to his door. Several senior FIFA officials have been arrested already, but Blatter shrugged off the notion that he could be next.

"Arrested for what? Next question," Blatter said curtly when meeting international media for the first time since American and Swiss federal cases rocked FIFA's home city on Wednesday.

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Blatter says FIFA corruption probe won't lead to him
Swiss attorney General Michael Lauber attends a press conference on June 17, 2015 in Bern. Swiss authorities are investigating the 2010 FIFA vote that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 07: Chuck Blazer Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup talks to the media during the FIFA Club World Cup Organising Committee Press Conference at Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel on December 7, 2011 in Nagoya, Japan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: An FBI agent wearing a mask carries a box from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes and computers from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 27: Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks at a packed news conference at the U.S. Attorneys Office of the Eastern District of New York following the early morning arrest of world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, for racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud on May 27, 2015 in New York City. The morning arrests took place at a hotel where FIFA members were attending a meeting for the world governing body of soccer (football) in Switzerland. The Justice Department unsealed a 47 count indictment early Wednesday charging 14 world soccer figures. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Costa Rican Football Federation acting President Jorge Hidalgo speaks during a press conference on May 27, 2015, in Lindora, 20 km west of San Jose, about the capture of Costa Rican Football Federation President Eduardo Li and six executives of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland. AFP PHOTO / Ezequiel BECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces charges against FIFA officials at a news conference on May 27, 2015 in New York. The soccer officials arrested on Wednesday in an investigation into the FIFA governing body have corrupted the international game, Lynch said Wednesday. She spoke after Swiss authorities acting on the US indictments detained several FIFA leaders in a dawn raid in Zurich as part of a corruption probe that has rocked the sport's governing body. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio arrives to give a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A staff waits prior to a press conference at the FIFA heaquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA Director of Communications Walter de Gregorio attends a press conference at the FIFA headquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
FIFA Director of Communications Walter de Gregorio reacts during a press conference at the FIFA headquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
A man walks by the headquarters of the international soccer's top body FIFA in Zurich, on May 27, 2015. Swiss police raided the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, seizing documents and data, the Swiss attorney-general's office said. The raids were part of an investigation already underway into money laundering and fraud involving FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, a statement said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A cloud is seen above the headquarters of international soccer's top body FIFA, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss policeraided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks by a logo of international soccer's top body FIFA, on May 27, 2015 at the organization's headquarters in Zurich. Swiss policeraided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
Media gathers outside the Hotel Baur-au-Lac where Swiss authorities conducted an early morning operation on May 27, 2015 to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges. FIFA said it was seeking to clarify the situation after six football officials were arrested in Zurich on the request of US authorities, suspected of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars. (Photo credit AFP/Getty Images)
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"I forgive but I don't forget," Blatter also said at FIFA headquarters, referring to a European-led attempt to oust him after 17 years in office.

A busy first day of his new four-year presidential term saw the leader of the world's most popular sport scold critics and take acclaim from allies.

Blatter criticized U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and received a congratulatory telegram from Vladimir Putin, president of 2018 World Cup host Russia.

Gone was the tension which put a tremor in his voice after Swiss police raided FIFA's favorite luxury hotel in Zurich early Wednesday.

Blatter insisted he had nothing to fear from the U.S. federal case which alleged a $150 million bribe scheme linked to broadcast rights for tournaments in North and South America. Two FIFA vice presidents were among seven men arrested.

"I do not see how FIFA could be directly affected by this," Blatter said.

He was equally adamant when responding to questions about whether the probe can't still directly affect him.

Was he the "high-ranking FIFA official" mentioned in the Department of Justice indictment who wired $10 million to corrupt North American officials? The apparent bribes were paid from a FIFA account in exchange for voting for South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host.

"Definitely that is not me," Blatter said. "I have no $10 million."

It was clear that, after winning a closer vote than he would have liked Friday, Blatter wanted to come out fighting - first criticizing Lynch in an interview with his local Swiss broadcaster.

Lynch said Wednesday that FIFA and marketing officials - 14 indicted and four who made guilty pleas - had "corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves."

"I was shocked by what she said," Blatter told French-language broadcaster RTS. "As a president I would never make a statement about another organization without knowing."

Blatter suggested the U.S. Department of Justice went too far on FIFA's turf.

"Listen, with all the respect to the judicial system of the U.S. with a new minister of justice," Blatter said, "the Americans, if they have a financial crime that regards American citizens then they must arrest these people there and not in Zurich when we have a congress."

Those comments set the tone for a punchy lunchtime news conference.

"I have especially no concerns about my person," he said about the investigation, which U.S. federal agencies claim is just starting.

The seven football officials detained are resisting extradition and face 20 years in prison. Any questioning and plea bargaining could take American authorities deeper into the heart of FIFA.

Those detained include FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, a Cayman Islands banker with homes in Georgia. Webb was a member of FIFA's audit panel more than a decade ago when FIFA was in severe financial crisis.

Still, FIFA member federations ignored the global furor Friday to vote Blatter a 133-73 victory against challenger Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.

Blatter said the storm of protest "hasn't reached hurricane strength," but acknowledged FIFA officials would make "personal visits" to World Cup sponsors unsettled by negative publicity.

Emboldened by his win, Blatter suggested two American motives for attacking him: Being a political ally of the "Hashemite kingdom," meaning the Jordanian prince's home country, and as a bad loser in the 2022 World Cup hosting votes.

A separate Swiss federal probe is also under way into possible financial corruption during the 2018-2022 bid contests, and evidence was seized at FIFA on Wednesday. Russian and Qatari bid officials have always denied wrongdoing.

Blatter's comments echo his close ally Putin. The Russian president said the U.S. was meddling in FIFA's affairs to influence the election and provoke his country being stripped of its World Cup.

Support for Blatter from Russia and Spain complicates a deep rift between FIFA and European body UEFA.

UEFA President Michel Platini, who urged Blatter to resign, has called his member federations to discuss tactics in Berlin ahead of the Champions League final next Saturday.

"There should be some kind of reaction," said Dutch federation president Michael van Praag, who was a candidate against Blatter until switching support to Prince Ali.

There was no immediate retribution toward Europe, though, as Blatter's executive committee voted Saturday to retain the format for World Cup qualifying spots. That ensures there will still be 13 European countries, plus host Russia, at the 32-team tournament.

The executive committee also cleared the way for European countries to bid for the 2026 World Cup, despite previous comments by Blatter that it would be too soon after Russia.

The United States is a probable bidder for 2026 amid obvious conflicts with FIFA.

"This will have no impact" on the chances of an American bid winning, Blatter insisted.

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