Did Blatter Lie to a Judge to Avoid Paying Heavy Fine?
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday 8 February, 2009
Last week Zurich journalist Jean Francois Tanda revealed in Sonntags Zeitung that multi-millionaire Sepp Blatter had persuaded a judge to impose the lightest possible fine after a car crash in which the FIFA president nearly killed another driver.
Tanda disclosed that Sepp Blatter escaped with a derisory 600 francs fine (£360, 400 Euros, US$500) after losing control of his 525 bhp Mercedes SL 63, hitting a car in front of him and then careening across a double white line into the other carriageway and striking an oncoming VW Golf so hard that it was flung in the air and landed upside down.
When convicted by the court in Thun in the canton of Berne, Blatter should have declared his true income and the fine should have reflected his wealth. Few believe this has happened.
The story has resonated in Switzerland all week. Top-selling tabloid Blick said the penalty was ‘ridiculous’ for a man who admitted earning at least 1 million francs a year. They quoted an expert on motoring law who said the verdict was ‘rotten . . . questionable, impossible, couldn’t be justified.’ The fine was appropriate for someone only earning 80,000 francs a year.
There has been continuing anger in Switzerland that immediately after the crash the number plates were removed from Blatter’s car. Several days passed before the police admitted they had done it, ‘to protect his right to privacy.’ They didn’t extend the same right to the 21-year-old man whose Golf was catapulted in the air.
By Friday the readers of the respectable Tages-Anzeiger were spitting blood. One comment was that ‘This affair gets more corrupt the longer it goes on.’ Reader Kurt Baumgartner emailed, ‘The whole thing stinks to high heaven.’ Sarcastic reader Hans Meier added ‘I never knew Blatter was so poor.’
The emails poured in all day. Klaus Mann said, ‘What a travesty!’ Peter Hotz reflected, ‘All are equal only some are more equal . . .’
Ronnie König asked, ‘How corrupt is our country anyway? and was answered by Veronique Duchand: ‘We now have a legal system that is comparable with those in China and some African dictatorships.’ Ludwig Baggenstos thought it was more like ‘South America.’
Nicolas Jossen announced, ‘Welcome to the Banana Republic of Switzerland and was echoed by Alfred Steiner.
What would these citizens say if they were told that Blatter doesn’t even pay his own tax bill. FIFA pays it for him.
Many foreigners assume, wrongly, that Blatter is respected in Switzerland. They should watch the Victor Giacobbo and Mike Müller Sunday evening TV comedy show. One Swiss TV critic explained to me, ‘There is hardly any live-broadcast, where they don't take the piss out of Sepp, his extravagancies, his car driving, his little envelopes, his girlfriends, his little-charity - "verein", Fifa's tax-exemption . . .’
Asked about the penalty imposed by the Thun court, Blatter issued a statement: ‘I have no comment’ – and departed Switzerland swiftly to pick up his $500 a day per diem attending the congress of African football in Lagos.