October 07, 2015 11:05
Hyundai scion Chung Mong-joon, a candidate for the presidency of the scandal-ridden world football body FIFA, on Tuesday said he now faces a 19-year suspension by the body's ethics committee.
Chung claimed the suspension, which comes amid a massive international corruption probe of FIFA, was due to his criticism of the leadership. "It is said that the ethics committee is a hired gun for FIFA President Sepp Blatter," Chung said. "I've become the target because I've found fault with some key leaders."
At a press conference in downtown Seoul, Chung said the move to suspend him was prompted by shenanigans that were already dealt with by FIFA.
"Back in 2010 when Korea was campaigning to host the 2022 World Cup, Korea's World Cup bid committee offered to set up an international soccer fund if it won, and I sent letters to FIFA executive committee members to explain this," he said. "Now the ethics committee has investigated that and told me it wants to suspend me for 15 years."
He added the committee wants to impose another four-year suspension for defamation and breach of secrecy, "because I cast doubt on its independence."
Besides Chung, the global scandal is beginning to engulf Blatter himself after several senior members were indicted in an FBI investigation and have turned witnesses for the prosecution.
But Chung, who owns Hyundai Heavy Industries, denied corruption in promising the football body a pot of money for the sport. "I never took any kind of bribe or sought my own personal interest with regard to the soccer fund," he said.
Instead, he claimed merely to have been doing what every other member of the FIFA board would do. "It's the old tradition of FIFA and it's natural and patriotic for any executive committee member to help his own country host the World Cup."
Earlier, in 2010, FIFA sent a letter to Chung notifying him that an investigation into his irregularities had been closed and he had been acquitted.
Chung also commented on press reports suggesting foul play in his donation of US$900,000 to Pakistan and Haiti, which were hit by natural disasters, ahead of his election bid for FIFA vice president.
"The donation never was subject to the ethics committee's investigation," he said. "I've given donations to disaster relief in various countries like Bangladesh, Burma China, and Turkey since 1999."
If the ethics committee's decision is upheld, Chung will be barred from any football-related activities for the next 19 years and his bid for the FIFA presidency is dead in the water.
"It's highly likely that my candidacy will be threatened," Chung said. Blatter and his cohorts "are undermining the FIFA presidential election and destroying FIFA itself."
Blatter has not yet been personally indicted, but an investigation is underway. He has announced his resignation as president but is clinging to the job until early next year.
Michel Platini, the president of the Union of European Football Associations and the strongest contender for the FIFA presidency, is also likely to drop out as Swiss prosecutors accuse him of receiving W2.4 billion from Blatter (US$1=W1,170).
Chung claims Blatter and Platini are now leaning on the FIFA ethics committee to water down the Platini bribery case and spread the accusations more widely.
"There are probably many ways to prevent me from registering as a candidate for the FIFA presidency," Chung said. "I'm on pins and needles, but I believe that the international community is still sane and will do my best using all legal channels to maintain my status as a candidate."
The next FIFA election is scheduled for Feb. 26 next year.
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