MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) chief Joseph "Sepp" Blatter deserves to win a Nobel Prize for leading the world’s football governing body, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.
"I think that people like Mr. Blatter, as well as heads of major international sports federations and the Olympic Games, deserve special attention and gratitude. People like that deserve to be given the Nobel Prize," Putin said.
Speaking in an interview with the Swiss RTS broadcaster, the Russian head of state said "without delving into details, I do not at all believe that he was involved in corruption."
Blatter, who has not been accused in the scandal, stepped down as FIFA president four days after he had been re-elected for a fifth term last month. He continues to perform the duties of FIFA head until a new president is elected in February 2016.
"If someone is suspected of a crime, all the required information should be collected and sent to prosecutors in the country concerned," Putin stressed. "It is unacceptable for a country – whether large or small – to scour the world and throw whoever they wish in their prisons."
Blatter’s leadership came under increased scrutiny following the indictment of 14 people, including nine FIFA officials, in the US Justice Department-led investigation late in May.
The FIFA officials and marketing executives are suspected of corruption, including fraudulent broadcasting deals, racketeering and money laundering totalling $150 million and spanning 24 years.
One of the extradited officials, former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb, pled not guilty at the Brooklyn, New York federal court and was released on $10-million bail two weeks ago.