Cash for clout. Austrian prosecutors investigate FIFA vote-buying allegations

January 11 – FIFA has become embroiled in yet another unwanted potential scandal after Austrian prosecutors revealed they were investigating the head of the country’s national federation (OeFB) Leo Windtner (pictured) over a payment from FIFA in the build-up to Sepp Blatter’s re-election as president in 2015.

“We are investigating because of the suspicion of breach of trust and corruption,” the public prosecution office for economic and corruption affairs (WKStA) said in a statement.

The $100,000 transfer was made by FIFA to a charity project supporting young footballers in Africa at the beginning of 2015. The main patron of the project was Windtner’s wife.

According to two Austrian websites, Addendum and 90minuten.at, the funds were approved just after Windtner had said in an interview that he supported Blatter serving another term.

It is not known who at FIFA authorised the money which was reportedly initially wired to the OeFB, which returned it to FIFA, saying it was not involved in the African project. FIFA is then reported to have transferred it directly to the project’s account.

Windtner, who became OFB president in 2009, confirmed the transfer had taken place but said it was used for a good cause and that he had nothing to hide. He said he would make a statement to prosecutors in the coming days and that he was “relaxed” about the probe.

“I didn’t give Blatter any promise or undertaking,” Windtner said. “Everything was transparent and every cent accounted for. I have nothing to reproach myself for.”

He conceded that the money was at first wrongly transferred to the OeFB and not to the African project, “but that was no fault of mine”.

In the end, Austria supported Blatter’s beaten rival for the FIFA presidency, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. Blatter, however, was forced to step down days after his re-election for a fifth term over the corruption scandal swirling around FIFA. He was later banned over the infamous disloyal payment to then-UEFA chief Michel Platini who was also thrown out.

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