The reasons for the respective departures of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee chief and its finance director/acting general secretary may not be linked. Not on paper at least. But the timing is, at best, questionable. At worst, it positively stinks.
As my colleague Paul Nicholson wrote yesterday (http://bit.ly/1Wi8IZi), are we really to believe Kattner’s alleged indiscretions have only just been discovered? Or is the real truth that Kattner’s unexpected dismissal over “breaches of his fiduciary responsibilities in connection with his employment contract” was simply an act of political expediency designed to get rid of him?
Until and unless FIFA provides us with more information, any analysis of the events that led to Kattner’s exit is of course pure speculation. Yet there are questions – serious questions – to be asked in terms of why now. And to what extent Infantino might have been personally involved.
As ever with FIFA, nothing is as it seems. According to some reports, undeclared bonus payments running to millions of dollars had been paid to Kattner between 2008 and 2014. Apparently only a few of FIFA’s inner circle knew about this, including former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his secretary-general Jerome Valcke, both long banned and disgraced.
FIFA won’t say, for the moment at least, whether this is true. But if the apparent irregular payments were not in the books, how come no criminal investigation has been opened against Kattner for embezzlement?
According to FIFA’s 2014 financial report, covering the period Kattner apparently received the unlawful bonuses, FIFA paid out a total salaries bill of $88.6 million, of which $39.7 million, excluding pension contributions, was paid to “key management personnel” including, presumably, Kattner.
Were the so-called illegal payments included in the salary figures FIFA published? If they weren’t and have only now come to light (despite every year’s financial report presumably being carefully scrutinised by FIFA’s highly respected international auditors), let me repeat the question: why has no criminal investigation been opened?
Here’s why this is so important. Insideworldfootball has been reliably informed that no ethics investigation is under way into Kattner’s conduct. Nor, apparently, is the Swiss attorney general’s office considering opening an inquiry. That must mean neither of them have sufficient evidence that Kattner breached any rules.
Just as crucially, if not more so, it is understood that Kattner did not receive a personal hearing before being fired. If that’s the case, what on earth happened to due process?
Just like Scala before him, the low-key Kattner, who only recently sat so loyally alongside Infantino at the FIFA Congress, appears to have spectacularly fallen out with the new FIFA president who seems to have no qualms about making enemies in his determined bid to stamp his authority on the organisation.
One source on the inside alleges Kattner questioned how Infantino was managing his own expenses and that Kattner was shown the door as a result.
Which perhaps explains the original question. Why now? Why after months and months of data searches by Swiss and US authorities and FIFA’s own people into all manner of financial dealings has this so-called fresh information suddenly come to light? If they were doing a proper job, how come we didn’t find out earlier about Kattner’s alleged nefarious activities and secret bonuses?
Could it be, just like that highly contentious rule change smuggled into Congress which seriously undermined the independence of FIFA’s judicial bodies and led to Scala’s resignation, that Kattner is another victim of Infantino’s power grab? Could it be that FIFA has simply come up with a convenient way of making sure Infantino is left to his own devices when questioned by those who could threaten him?
Kattner may not have been squeaky clean during his long career at FIFA where he has invariably taken a back seat. Never one to publicly question the authority of his superiors, there is a large body of opinion that believes he should, as director of finance, have been held accountable for so-called $2 million swiss franc “disloyal payment” that brought down both Blatter and Michel Platini.
But this latest sorry saga has a familiar ring to it in terms of who is pulling the trigger let alone the strings. FIFA might be endeavouring to accentuate the positive with regard to collective responsibility, accountability and much-needed reform but with Infantino not yet even in the job for 100 days, the words power, scapegoats and own goals are beginning to characterise his presidency since taking over in February from Blatter.
Same as the old boss? For all his failings, faux pas and misdeeds, Blatter also had a softer side to him, born out of a passion for the peoples’ game. Infantino may talk the talk but his regime is in danger of gaining a reputation as self-serving and coldly calculating – exactly the opposite message he is so keen to send out.