Controversial Fifa boss Sepp Blatter is afraid to enter America because of the long-running FBI probe into alleged corruption into the world football organisation, according to sources.
The New York Daily News has reported that one-time US member of Fifa's executive committee Chuck Blazer allegedly secretly recorded his colleagues for years for the FBI. Blazer agreed to co-operate in exchange for leniency after the US authorities discovered he hadn't paid any US taxes for close to a decade.
He recorded Fifa administrators in phone calls, and at meeting and dinners. He also allegedly recorded former World Cup bidders at the London Olympics where Blazer arranged meetings, the News reported.
The FBI is probing the controversial process that led to the choices of Russia to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar for the 2022 tournament, decisions many believe were bought with bribes. Federal authorities have requested documents from Switzerland, where FIFA's headquarters are located. Fifa denies the allegations.
Now Blatter, apparently worried that Blazer may have caught him in the alleged corruption he has long been suspected of, is giving a wide berth to America and the FBI, reports ESPN's newsmagazine show E:60. Blatter hasn't been in the US since 2011 when Blazer first began to co-operate with the feds.
FIFA denied that Blatter has been avoiding the US. "The information that the FIFA president is avoiding travels to the USA because of any alleged FBI requests is absolutely untrue," a spokesperson told the Guardian.
Former US attorney Michael Garcia was commissioned last year by Fifa as an independent investigator to probe the process that led to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. But he quit in disgust when the association refused to make his full findings public.
Earlier this month, a German film crew in Qatar working on a documentary on the World Cup controversy was arrested and interrogated for days and their equipment confiscated by Qatari officials. Authorities explained the journalists' treatment by saying they lacked a film permit.
Despite mounting criticism about his corruption-tainted reign at FIFA, Blatter is expected to win re-election later this month to serve a fifth term as the head of the soccer association.