By Andrew Warshaw
December 17 – Why now? It’s a question many are pondering after FIFA on Monday confirmed reports last week that it is filing a civil lawsuit against veteran former president Sepp Blatter and ex-UEFA president Michel Platini to recover the CHF 2 million paid to Platini in 2011 on Blatter’s authority, which led to long bans for both of them.
FIFA said in a statement that any money recovered, plus interest, would be ”fully channelled back into football development, which is where the money should have gone in the first place.”
The FIFA governance committee told the organisation’s leadership that because the money had not been repaid, despite it having been ruled a “disloyal payment”, FIFA should initiate legal proceedings .
The payment was exposed in 2015 and although both Blatter and Platini insisted it was made under an oral agreement as back payment for advisory work carried out between 1998 and 2002, there was no written contract.
Platini’s four-year ban has just expired meaning he can resume work in football amid speculation he will seek to take over as head of the French federation. He had been heir apparent to Blatter until they were both toppled from power.
Blatter, who worked at FIFA for 40 years – including 17 as president – is still serving his six-year ban for authorising the payment to Platini in 2011.
Both continue to maintain they did nothing wrong but in a statement FIFA said it had “filed claims in the relevant Swiss courts against former FIFA President Joseph Blatter and former FIFA Vice-President Michel Platini, seeking restitution of the 2 million francs unduly paid to Mr. Platini back in February 2011.”
“This follows the unanimous resolution recently adopted by the FIFA Governance Committee in which it emphasised that FIFA was duty-bound to try to recover the funds illicitly paid by one former official to another. Even the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has confirmed that this CHF 2 million gift was to be viewed as an “undue payment”.
“If and when successfully recovered, these funds (together with interest) will be fully channelled back into football development, which is where the money should have gone in the first place.”
Platini’s campaign to succeed Blatter was effectively scuppered when details of the payment emerged as part of the fallout from the FifaGate scandal.
The Frenchman is reported to be planning a comeback though this can be blocked by the FIFA code of ethics which require him to pay a fine of CHF60,000 imposed four years ago. Platini has declined to pay while he is challenging his ban at the European Court of Human Rights.
Platini did not immediately respond to FIFA’s latest move but Blatter, who is still under criminal investigation in his native Switzerland, was reported as hitting back immediately by claiming members of the supposedly independent FIFA governance committee, which unanimously made the recommendation to sue, are nominated by the FIFA Council and, by extension, his successor and current FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.
If anything, Blatter was quoted as saying by Bloomberg, FIFA “should actually sue itself.”
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