ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA's ethics judges announced on Thursday they had opened formal proceedings against suspended Secretary General Jerome Valcke over alleged corruption involving World Cup ticket sales, one of many scandals now surrounding soccer's governing body.
The announcement came after an ethics investigation into the case recommended a nine-year ban for Valcke, former right-hand man to FIFA president Sepp Blatter who himself has been banned for eight years.
Valcke, who is suspended pending the final outcome and has denied wrongdoing, has been invited to submit evidence to the panel, FIFA's independent Ethics Committee said in a statement.
Valcke was one of the most powerful men in FIFA and responsible for ensuring that preparations for the last two World Cups, in South Africa and Brazil, were completed in time.
Even so, his case has been overshadowed by the turmoil which has engulfed FIFA in the last year, with criminal investigations into the sport in both the United States and Switzerland.
Altogether, 41 people and sports entities, including top FIFA officials, have been indicted by U.S. prosecutors for offences including corruption, fraud and money laundering.
WORLD CUP TICKETS
FIFA's own ethics committee has banned numerous officials including Blatter and European soccer boss Michel Platini and is still investigating the conduct of others.
"The adjudicatory chamber has studied the report carefully and decided to institute formal adjudicatory proceedings against Mr Valcke," said Thursday's statement.
The allegations against Valcke stem from former Israeli football player Benny Alon telling a news conference in September in Zurich that he had agreed in 2013 to pay cash to Valcke to secure plum tickets for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
FIFA controls the rights to sell all the World Cup tickets and Alon said the plan was then to sell the tickets to fans at a markup and split the proceeds with Valcke. Alon said the deal fell through and he never paid the football official.
Valcke was placed on leave by FIFA in September following the allegations and initially suspended for 90 days in October when the ethics committee started its investigation. That suspension was extended for another 45 days on Wednesday.
Valcke has had a checkered career at FIFA.
He originally joined in 2003 as marketing director but was fired in December 2006 for his part in botched sponsorship negotiations with credit card firms MasterCard Inc and Visa Inc.
He was re-hired as Secretary General eight months later and credited with the success of the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and Joshua Franklin; Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ralph Boulton)