By Andrew Warshaw
July 1 – It is four years since Markus Kattner (pictured) was sacked within months of Gianni Infantino coming to power as Fifa president despite having only just piloted Infantino through his first controversial FIFA Congress, in Mexico City.
But now, following a long investigation into an allegedly unlawful bonus payment scheme, Kattner, FIFA’s former finance director under Sepp Blatter – and for a brief while secretary general – has been banned for 10 years.
FIFA said its ethics committee judges found Kattner guilty of conflicts of interest and abuse of position, including obtaining a recording of a FIFA Council meeting from which he had been excluded.
Kattner was also fined 1 million Swiss francs and ordered to pay within 30 days.
“By his conduct, the integrity and objectivity of FIFA have therefore been exceedingly violated,” FIFA’s ethics judges said in their ruling.
Kattner, publicly the quiet man of the FIFA hierarchy under Blatter and who has not been heard from or seen for years, has long denied any wrongdoing and in fact is still suing FIFA for wrongful dismissal for “breaches of his fiduciary responsibilities in connection with his employment contract.”
Shortly after being fired (apparently without a personal hearing) by FIFA’s new administration in 2016, it was revealed that Kattner, Blatter and ex-secretary general Jerome Valcke were all the beneficiaries of a staggering $80 million scheme they awarded themselves over a five-year period.
The scheme was revealed when FIFA’s then American lawyers Quinn Emmanuel, hired to conduct an investigation into alleged widespread corruption, released details of the bonuses, saying the trio had made “a coordinated effort” to “enrich themselves” between 2011 and 2015.
At the time, a spokesperson for Kattner said the contracts were approved by FIFA’s compensation panel and known to its then-auditors.
Indeed, those close to Kattner maintained that the payments in question were perfectly above board and did not break a single FIFA statute, fuelling speculation that the real reason for his sacking was that he had fallen out with Infantino for having the temerity to question how the then new FIFA boss was managing his own expenses.
But the ethics committee, reshaped since Infantino took over from Blatter, clearly took a different view.
“The investigation into Mr Kattner covered various charges concerning bonus payments in relation to FIFA competitions that were paid to top FIFA management officials (including Mr Kattner), various amendments to and extensions of employment contracts, reimbursement of private legal costs, and Mr Kattner’s duties as an official,” said the ethics statement.
When Blatter and Valcke were suspended from duty in 2015, Kattner was promoted to be FIFA’s interim secretary general – a role he held for three more months after the election of Infantino.
But he now joins the long list of FIFA powerbrokers to fall spectacularly from grace.
Blatter, who led FIFA from 1998 until 2015, remains banned until 2021 for that infamous “disloyal payment” saga involving Michel Platini while Valcke, who served as Blatter’s no. 2, is banned until 2028 over the sale of World Cup tickets, abuse of travel expenses, attempting to sell TV rights below their market value and destruction of evidence.
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