FIFA has revealed that its ethics committee has opened proceedings against president Sepp Blatter, who will be forced to answer charges that he knew about alleged improper cash payments.
In what has become an ugly battle for the FIFA presidency - set to culminate in next week's election - rival candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam deflected allegations of bribery, originally made against him, onto Blatter, who he said authorised the payments in question.
Bin Hammam insisted on Thursday that if he was to face charges, Blatter should also be probed, and the FIFA ethics committee have heeded the Asian football chief's request,
The latest development means that the three of the most powerful men in world football - FIFA vice-president Jack Warner has also been charged with bribery - will now appear before the ethics committee on Sunday.
The ethics committee are bound by their rules to investigate any complaint by an executive committee member under article 16 of the ethics code.
FIFA said in a statement: "On 26 May 2011, FIFA ExCo member Mohamed Bin Hammam has requested the FIFA ethics committee to open ethics proceedings against FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter on the basis that, in the report submitted by FIFA ExCo member Chuck Blazer earlier this week, FIFA vice-president Jack A. Warner would have informed the FIFA president in advance about alleged cash payments to delegations attending a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) apparently organised jointly by Jack A. Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam on 10 and 11 May 2011 and that the FIFA President would have had no issue with these.
"Subsequently, the FIFA ethics committee today opened a procedure against the FIFA president in compliance with art. 16 of the FIFA code of ethics. Joseph S. Blatter has been invited to take position by 28 May 2011, 11:00 CET and to attend a hearing by the FIFA ethics committee at the Home of FIFA (Zurich) on 29 May 2011.''
FIFA announced on Wednesday that its ethics committee would examine the conduct of Bin Hammam and Warner, along with CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester, in relation to claims made by executive committee member Chuck Blazer.
Blazer, who is the general secretary of the CONCACAF federation, has alleged that violations were committed under the FIFA code of ethics during a meeting organised by Bin Hammam and Warner on May 10 and 11 - the same time Lord Triesman had accused Warner of demanding money for a World Cup 2018 vote - in relation to the upcoming FIFA presidential election, which takes place on June 1.
FIFA's code of ethics rules state that as the complaint came from a member of the body's executive committee, the independent ethics committee must now also investigate Blatter.
The code states: "FIFA accepts complaints only from the executive committee of an association, the executive committee of a confederation, members of the FIFA executive committee and from the FIFA secretary general.''
The code also declares that FIFA officials have a duty to report any wrongdoing. It says: "Officials shall report any evidence of violations of conduct to the FIFA secretary general, who shall report it to the competent body.''
Bin Hammam is effectively claiming that Blatter was aware of some wrongdoing but did not report it, in itself a breach of the code.
The ethics committee will hear the bribery charges against Bin Hammam and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner on Sunday in Zurich.
A file of evidence claims bundles of cash of up to 40,000 US dollars were handed over to members of the Caribbean Football Union at meetings in Trinidad earlier this month.
The committee, chaired by Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb, will also be under pressure to decide soon whether Blatter will face any charges or not.