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Fifa official casts new doubt over Platini presidency bid

Uefa's president Michel Platini.
Uefa's president Michel Platini. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

A senior Fifa official called into question Michel Platini's bid for football's top job on Tuesday. Domenico Scala, chairman of the organisation's electoral and audit committees said the failure to disclose a multi-million dollar payment could be seen as a "falsification of accounts".

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Earlier this week, Fifa reconfirmed they will vote for a new president on 26 February 2016 to replace president Sepp Blatter and the executive committee confirmed Platini's bid will not be considered as long as he is suspended.

But Platini's chances have nosedived as neither he nor Blatter can explain an irregular payment of 1.8 million euros made in 2011 for advisory work the Frenchman did for Fifa from 1998 to 2002.

Scala told the Financial Times that evidence for the consultancy agreement had not appeared in accounts before the payment, calling it a "serious omission" in an interview.

"Both parties were members of Fifa’s executive committee and knowingly approved each year financial statements, which were incorrect by two million Swiss Francs,” he explained. “That could be seen as falsification of the accounts".

Scala had appeared to leave the door open for Platini earlier Tuesday by saying that, should his ban be lifted or expire before the 26 February election, the Electoral Committee "would decide... on how to proceed with the candidacy concerned".

Fifa’s independent Ethics Committee indicated it would make an announcement on the cases of senior officials being investigated this Wednesday, without revealing any names.

Uefa president Michel Platini had been considered the favourite to replace Blatter until his suspension.

Alongside Platini, Prince Ali bin al Hussein, who lost to Blatter in May's election, has officially stated his candidacy. Former Trinidad and Tobago captain David Nakhid, former Switzerland defender Ramon Vega and Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation, are also considering running. All candidates must submit their applications by Monday.

Football's governing body has been in chaos since 9 October when the ethics committee suspended Blatter, secretary-general Jerome Valcke and Platini for 90 days.

The trio were banned from attending Tuesday's Fifa gathering in Zurich when acting president Issa Hayatou attempted to guide Fifa through the latest storm of scandals in Blatter's absence.

With Hayatou in charge, the executive committee welcomed preliminary reform proposals to set an age restriction of 74 years and a 12-year maximum tenure for the organisation presidency. That would block any repeat of someone matching Blatter's reign in future, with the 79-year-old having been in charge since 1998.

With Hayatou pledging a commitment to rebuilding Fifa’s battered reputation, the executive committee agreed to change the rules governing investigations.That means more information could be published in future about the independent ethics committee's proceedings.

"Increasing the transparency of ethics investigations is just one example of our firm commitment to change," Hayatou said. "It was also significant that we set the course for the upcoming presidential election."

Swiss investigators are currently looking into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar in a bribery scandal which has seen 14 people arrested by American and Swiss authorities.

Seven former Fifa officials were arrested by Swiss authorities in May as the United States attempts to have them extradited to face charges of accepting bribes. And last weekend  allegations of cash-for-votes by magazine Der Spiegel drew the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany into question. The German Football Association has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.
 

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