- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

GENEVA (AP) - FIFA has fired its finance director of the past 13 years, removing another fixture of the Sepp Blatter presidential era in another round of revelations about irregular million-dollar payments.

Markus Kattner’s exit on Monday came after he spent several months in his highest profile role at the scandal-rocked world soccer body - as its interim top administrator promoting FIFA’s wish to change its tainted culture even as his links to other investigations added up.

FIFA said Kattner was fired after an internal investigation said he allegedly broke his legal responsibilities to the organization “in connection with his employment contract.”

The 45-year-old German official was due payments worth millions of dollars over a six-year period from 2008-14 from additions to his contract, a person familiar with the FIFA investigation said Monday.

The extra payments were known to then-President Blatter and then-secretary general Jerome Valcke, Kattner’s immediate boss in that period.

“We don’t yet understand why these payments were made,” the person said on condition of anonymity as details of the investigation are confidential. “These contract provisions were not known widely and not to the appropriate officers at FIFA.”

It is unclear if the contracted payments which came to light last week could form part of a wider investigation of criminal mismanagement at FIFA conducted by Swiss federal prosecutors, who opened proceedings against Blatter last September.

“We are not in a position to determine the legality of the contracts,” the person said, adding that “the appropriate authorities are aware of the issue.”

United States federal prosecutors - who have indicted and taken guilty pleas from more than 40 soccer and marketing officials, plus marketing agencies, in a sprawling bribery probe - have said they are monitoring FIFA’s commitment to genuine reform under President Gianni Infantino, who was elected in February.

FIFA’s ethics committee is likely now to open an investigation against Kattner, with charges of conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA among potential outcomes.

An emailed request for comment from Kattner was not answered.

Kattner joined FIFA as director of finance in 2003 from the McKinsey consultancy firm, where he worked with the former FIFA president’s nephew, Philippe Blatter, on a project advising the soccer body.

In 2007, Kattner got the deputy secretary general title after Blatter hired Valcke for the top administrative job. Kattner was promoted in an interim role when Valcke was suspended last September for financial wrongdoing and then fired in January.

“Markus Kattner has been dismissed from his position effective immediately,” FIFA said in a statement Monday. “FIFA’s internal investigation uncovered breaches of his fiduciary responsibilities in connection with his employment contract.”

FIFA has already announced that United Nations official Fatma Samoura of Senegal is due to start work next month as the new permanent secretary general.

Kattner’s alleged wrongdoing came to light last Friday, the person with knowledge of the latest investigation said, one week after Samoura’s hiring was announced by Infantino.

Kattner was at FIFA headquarters on Monday before his firing was announced. His exit is unconnected with the timing of Samoura’s hiring and expected arrival at FIFA, the person said.

“This is based on documentary evidence that is information which emerged in the last three days,” the person said, stating that no whistleblower was involved in revealing the case.

FIFA is being subjected to an internal investigation led by lawyers it retained from U.S.-based firm Quinn Emanuel, which is working separately from investigations by federal prosecutors in the U.S. and Switzerland.

As a central figure overseeing FIFA finances during most of Blatter’s presidency, Kattner and his finance department have been linked to the American and Swiss cases, and investigations of other officials by FIFA’s ethics committee.

American prosecutors have focused on $10 million paid through FIFA accounts, at the request of South African organizers of the 2010 World Cup, as alleged bribes for senior officials to vote for that country’s successful hosting bid. Valcke has been implicated as the money went through the FIFA finance department he oversaw. South African officials have said the money was for soccer projects to support the African diaspora.

FIFA previously suggested the cash transfers were known to long-time FIFA finance committee chairman Julio Grondona of Argentina. Grondona died in 2014.

Michel Platini has said that his invoice requesting a $2 million payment for backdated salary from FIFA was sent to Kattner in 2010. The now-banned UEFA president got the money approved by Blatter in February 2011.

In that case, Platini had a four-year ban confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport this month, and Blatter awaits an appeal at CAS to challenge his six-year ban for conflict of interest. They deny wrongdoing.

Kattner is also expected to be sought as a witness in German and Swiss investigations of unexplained payments between FIFA and German organizers of the 2006 World Cup, including soccer great Franz Beckenbauer.

When questioned at FIFA news conferences since October, Kattner has said he has been advised by FIFA not to comment on ongoing criminal and ethics cases.

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