Sepp Blatter: Former Fifa president takes legal action over missing watches and 'moral damage'

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'I'm an honest man' - Blatter exclusive

Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter has begun legal proceedings against football's world governing body for "moral damage" and to reclaim around 60 of his watches he says are still in its possession.

Blatter's 17-year spell in charge of Fifa ended amid a corruption scandal in 2015 and he is serving a six-year ban from football.

He was found to have made a £1.3m "disloyal payment" to former Uefa boss Michel Platini. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Blatter, who is now 83, alleges that false information was spread in relation to money received by him after the 2014 World Cup.

Fifa said Blatter's views should be seen "against the background of his own conduct in office over a period of decades".

Blatter also said he is willing to speak to French anti-corruption investigators over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup hosting rights to Qatar.

Officials have been looking into alleged corruption connected to the shock result from the vote in 2010 for the past two years.

Last month they questioned Platini after he was taken into custody in Paris.

And now the disgraced Blatter - who was initially interviewed by the French authorities in 2017 - has told the BBC he is "at their disposal".

"I am prepared to help to clarify all these situations" he said.

"I heard that they would like to speak with me."

In a wide-ranging interview with BBC Sport in Zurich, Blatter also said;

  • A four-year long Swiss criminal investigation into him should now be closed
  • His teenage grandaughter had been forced to change schools after being bullied over his remarkable fall from grace

Background

Last month former France international Platini was questioned by investigators over a lunch he attended in Paris in November 2010 with then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Qatar's crown prince - now Emir - Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani. Two of Sarkozy's former officials were also questioned.

Blatter has claimed Platini told him at the time that potential bilateral trade deals discussed at the meeting were why he voted for Qatar (rather than the US) two weeks later. Blatter says the u-turn was crucial in the Arab state winning, which triggered Fifa's worst ever scandal.

But Platini denies this, insisting he was not influenced in any way and decided to vote the way he did "in the interests of football development".

A spokesman for Platini told the BBC: "It is a false allegation. Mr Sarkozy never asked Mr Platini to vote for Qatar, nor for any other country."

Blatter and Platini remain banned from football for financial misconduct in relation to a 2m Swiss francs (£1.3m) payment.

Qatar's bid team has been previously accused of corruption, but was cleared following a two-year Fifa inquiry. They also deny any wrongdoing.

"French justice is looking in this matter but not specifically because it concerns Mr Platini, but because it concerns the (ex) head of state," Blatter told the BBC in Zurich.

"He has spent several hours under pressure (during questioning), but don't forget that the two other persons with him were directly linked to the former President Sarkozy. So the objective there, in my opinion, was not to put Platini in a bad situation, but to have more information."

Last month Sarkozy lost a final bid to halt his prosecution on charges of corruption in a separate case, and must stand trial in the coming months.

He is accused of trying to bribe a magistrate but denies any wrongdoing.

'Time to close my case'

Blatter has also spoken to Swiss and German authorities as part of similar investigations into Fifa.

Swiss criminal proceedings were opened against him in 2015, and he remains a suspect, but no charges have yet been brought, and he says it is now time to close the case.

"It's four years, and nothing has happened, this case should be settled, because it's a non-case," he said.

"There cannot be a charge, otherwise they would have done it a long time (ago), but I'm not so sure that this will come out now. I want to defend my rights, while I'm alive.

"I've not lost my fighting spirit."

The Swiss attorney general was recently removed from overseeing the case because of undeclared meetings with Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

'Give me back my watches'

Blatter says the "proceedings have begun" in his legal action against Fifa.

His claim contains the allegation that Fifa are still in possession of a number of his personal belongings, including around 60 of his watches.

"These are my watches, give me my watches" he said.

"It's important for me. I worked in the watch industry and I made my collection. Forty-one years they were [at Fifa], I could have taken them home, a long time ago.

"Why are they fighting for these watches?

"There is no respect, there is no respect by the president [Infantino]."

In response to Blatter's claims, a Fifa spokesperson told the BBC: "Mr Blatter is of course entitled to his opinions but, at the same time, it's probably worthwhile remembering that these opinions and allegations come from a person who was banned from football for six years for engaging in unethical behaviour.

"In the meantime, we also understand that the Swiss authorities continue to investigate him for possible criminal misconduct and the new Fifa hopes these investigations come to a conclusion soon.

"Mr Blatter's views and opinions should be seen in that context, and against the background of his own conduct in office over a period of decades."

'My family has suffered more than me'

An emotional Blatter - who is recovering from knee replacement surgery - also spoke about the personal toll his downfall in the wake of the 2015 Fifa corruption scandal had taken, revealing that his teenage grandaughter had been bullied as a result of his notoriety, and forced to leave her school.

"I'm living in peace now with myself (but) my family has suffered" he said, while struggling to hold back tears.

"They have suffered more than I have suffered.

"My grandaughter was mobbed in college when she was just 14 and she had to leave the college. She's now 18.

"It's terrible. She just got her diploma, at the university ceremony, but she is still suffering about it. This is life today. This is the world we live in."

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