He added, “If he files a claim, obviously we’ll defend any claims on the basis we act in conformity of our legal obligations, including with Mr. Blatter.”
Blatter’s watches are not the only belongings of ousted officials that have remained at FIFA. A vintage Mercedes owned by Chuck Blazer, the corrupt former American official whose testimony helped the Justice Department secure prosecutions against dozens of his former associates, remains in its parking space in FIFA’s subterranean garage. Blazer died in 2017, four years after secretly pleading guilty to racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering and agreeing to help investigators.
Luxury watches have had a strangely outsize role within soccer circles, bringing down officials and leading to embarrassing revelations. In 2014, for example, FIFA struggled to persuade members to return dozens of $26,000 wristwatches distributed to them by the organizers of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. And after he was arrested in the 2015 scandal, one former FIFA official secured his release from custody, in part, by turning over 11 watches and his wife’s wedding ring.
Just last month, Reinhard Grindel, the president of Germany’s soccer federation and a member of FIFA’s governing council, was forced to resign after it was revealed he had accepted a designer watch from a Ukrainian colleague.
Blatter once even invoked the slogan of his former watchmaker employer to chastise the news media during a fiery 2011 news conference. Snapping back at one question, Blatter lectured the reporter who asked it with the line, “elegance is an attitude,” a motto used by Longines since 1999.
Years after his ouster, Blatter continues to feel wronged by events at FIFA. He insisted the men he grew to know intimately over decades in soccer, including some he had agreements with over television contracts, must have engaged in dishonest conduct without his knowledge, and far from FIFA’s headquarters. And he claimed that he never received the $12 million bonus he was secretly promised in his last employment contract. He wants FIFA to clear up the matter, saying the revelation that he arranged for a multimillion-dollar payday during FIFA’s darkest hour represents a stain on his character.
Blatter said he would not pursue the $12 million, however, if FIFA returned the rest of his watches. “For me this is really personal,” he said.