Former football chiefs Blatter and Platini face Swiss fraud trial
Former world and European football executives Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini will stand trial on Wednesday for a suspected illegal payment that shocked the sport and ended their reigns at the top.
Blatter, 86, and Platini, 66, will stand before Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona, following a six-year probe that began in 2015 and continued until 2019.
The two are on trial for a 2011 payment of 2 million Swiss francs (1.91 million euros) to Platini, who was then president of UEFA, the governing body of European soccer.
They are accused of illegally obtaining the cash plus social security contributions of 229,126 francs (229,836 euros) for Platini, to the detriment of FIFA.
According to the court, the former French football star “sent to FIFA in 2011 an allegedly fraudulent invoice for a (claimed) debt still existing for his participation as a FIFA consultant from 1998 to 2002.”
The suspects are charged with fraud and document falsification. Blatter is charged with misappropriation and criminal mismanagement, and Platini is charged with participation in these offenses.
The indictment was filed by the Office of Switzerland’s Attorney General (OAG).
The trial will conclude on June 22, and the three judges will render their decision on July 8. The defendants face the possibility of up to five years in prison or a fine.
FIFA and UEFA both have their headquarters in Switzerland, in Zurich and Nyon, respectively.
Platini and retired Swiss football official Blatter were banned from the sport just as Platini appeared poised to succeed Blatter as president of the world football governing body.
Platini’s impatience to take over turned the two allies into adversaries, while Blatter’s reign was abruptly ended by a separate 2015 FIFA corruption scandal investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In the Bellinzona trial, both the defense and the prosecution agree on one point: between 1998 and 2002, Platini worked as a consultant for Blatter. In 1999, they agreed to an annual salary of 300,000 Swiss francs.
According to the OAG, Platini billed FIFA for the agreed-upon compensation on multiple occasions, and FIFA paid the whole amount each time.
However, more than eight years after his advisory job ended, the former France captain “demanded a payment of two million francs,” according to the OAG.
“With Blatter’s assistance, FIFA paid Platini the aforementioned sum at the start of 2011. The information collected by the OAG confirms that this payment to Platini was made without legal authority. This payment diminished FIFA’s assets and benefitted Platini in violation of the law “federal prosecution allegations
The men insist that they verbally agreed to an annual remuneration of 1 million francs from the outset.
“It is unpaid salary owed by FIFA under an oral contract and paid under the strictest legal standards. Nothing further! As in my entire life and work, I acted with the utmost integrity “Platini claimed.
As a civil party, FIFA wants to be refunded the 2011 funds so that they can be “returned to the one and only purpose for which they were intended: football,” its attorney Catherine Hohl-Chirazi told AFP.
Joseph “Sepp” Blatter joined FIFA in 1975, was became general secretary in 1981, and was elected president of the governing body of world football in 1998.
He was forced to resign in 2015 and was banned by FIFA for eight years, later reduced to six, for ethics violations for allegedly authorizing the payment to Platini in his own interests rather than FIFA’s.
Platini served as the president of UEFA from January 2007 to December 2015.
Platini filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which lowered his initial eight-year suspension to four years.