Blatter and Platini to face Swiss fraud trial over CHF2m payment

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By Andrew Warshaw

November 3 – After an investigation lasting almost six years, the former heads of FIFA and UEFA, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, have been charged with fraud over the infamous “disloyal payment” that brought the careers of both powerbrokers crashing down.

In a dramatic new twist, Blatter, 85, and Platini who is 66, will now go before a Swiss court, possibly within the next six months, at what promises to be football’s most high profile trial and could face jail sentences if found guilty.

The case concerns the CHF2 million payment made by to Platini in 2010 on the instruction of Blatter and covered a verbal agreement between the two for consultancy by Platini when the Frenchman was working as a presidential adviser in Blatter’s first term, from 1998-2002.

Platini was paid CHF300,000 annually between 1998 and 2002, sums that have never been disputed and is evidenced in a contract signed in 1999. There is no written contract covering the supplementary amount paid in 2010.

It is this second half of the so-called gentleman’s agreement, made verbally, that is at issue. If there was a contract for one half of the consultancy agreement, why wasn’t there a written contract covering the second half?

The payment was made just a few months before Blatter was re-elected to the FIFA presidency in 2011. Platini had been expected to stand in that election but in the end didn’t run for office.

Both Blatter and Platini have long claimed they did absolutely nothing wrong and that the money represented backdated salary. Indeed, Blatter has made the point that it was money owed and was never a secret payment since it was reported to the Swiss tax authorities and social security was deducted from the payment.

The judicial case was opened in September 2015, ending Blatter’s reign as FIFA president prematurely and wrecking Platini’s ambition to succeed his former mentor.

The FIFA ethics committee banned both of them for six years though Platini’s ban was later reduced to four years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on appeal and in October 2019 he was allowed to return to football.

Prosecutors believe the two officials, once the most powerful duo in world football, lied as to the reason for the payment made, especially since it was close to the re-election of Blatter, in June 2011, when he stood unopposed.

“This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini,” Swiss federal prosecutors said in a statement

“The evidence gathered by the (attorney general’s office) has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis.”

Blatter has been charged with fraud, mismanagement, misappropriation of FIFA funds and forgery of a document. Platini has been charged with fraud, misappropriation, forgery and as an accomplice to Blatter’s alleged mismanagement.

Blatter was preparing at the time to take on Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar in an attempt to get re-elected. Platini’s role was to try and woo European voters in favour of the incumbent.

The cases, though linked, will likely be heard separately by panels of three to five judges (there is no jury system in Switzerland). Much Swiss legal opinion feels that it is a difficult case to prove though such is the sensitivity around the Swiss justice system’s handling of the FIFA scandals, it is also a difficult case to sweep under the carpet despite the time lapses.

Fraud and forgery charges can be punished with jail sentences of up to five years in Switzerland but both men have come out fighting.

“I view the proceedings at the federal criminal court with optimism — and hope that, with this, this story will come to an end and all the facts will be worked through cleanly,” Blatter declared.

“Regarding the payment of the sum of two million francs from FIFA to Michel Platini, I can only repeat myself: It was based on an oral contract that regulated Platini’s advisory activities for FIFA between 1998 and 2002,” he added.

As for Platini, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner and captain of  France when they won the European Championship in 1984, he said Tuesday he was “perfectly confident and calm” about the outcome.

“I fully contest these unfounded and unfair accusations,” Platini said. “These methods are an extension of the prosecutor’s relentlessness to unduly implicate me in a case in which my entire good faith has been recognised. I fully challenge these unfounded and unfair accusations.”

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