TThey were once the two most powerful men in world football, until they were banned by FIFA’s ethics committee in 2015 over secret payments of CHF2m (£1.65m at the current exchange rate). Now, after a seven-year investigation, this same batch will lead to Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Finally in front of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court this week, where he faces fraud, embezzlement and other corruption charges.
The 86-year-old Blatter, who is in ill health, is scheduled to stand on the first day of the two-week trial, which begins in Bellinzona on Wednesday. Platini will be questioned on Friday. The trial, which will be before a panel of three judges, will conclude on June 22 with a ruling on July 8.
It sure would make for an electric theatre. But the stakes in the football experience of the century could not be greater for Blatter or Platini. If found guilty, they could face up to five years in prison plus a hefty fine.
The crux of the case lies in the notorious “disloyalty” amount of 2 million Swiss francs to Platini in exchange for advisory services authorized by Blatter in January 2011, which ended with the termination of both men’s football careers. Swiss prosecutors claim the payment was “made without legal basis”. and “illegally enriched platinum”.
Documents published by the court provide more details for the prosecution case. They state that “Joseph Blatter and Michel Francois Platini are accused of illegally obtaining 2 million Swiss francs on the account of FIFA and social security contributions amounting to 22,9126 Swiss francs in favor of Platini.” Among other things, Platini submitted a supposed fictitious invoice to FIFA in 2011 for [allegedly] The claim is still outstanding over his advisory work at FIFA between 1998 and 2002. After the bill was signed and Blatter confirmed the existence of the claim, FIFA settled the corresponding claim. [including social security contributions] for Platini.
Blatter has denied the accusations of fraud, embezzlement, dishonest business management and document forgery. As does Platini, accused of fraud, complicity in embezzlement and embezzlement and as an accomplice in Blatter’s alleged mismanagement.
“I view the proceedings in the Federal Criminal Court with optimism – and I hope that this story ends and that all facts are dealt with cleanly,” Blatter said in a statement.
“I fully object to these false and unfair accusations,” Platini, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner who led France to the European Championship in 1984, said in his statement.
Both men claim they had a verbal agreement that the money would be paid as an additional salary retroactively to Platini, who served as special counsel in Blatter’s first term, from 1998-2002. However, Swiss law places a five-year time limit on these payments.
Platini also claimed that Blatter told him about it at the time FIFA He was not able to afford his wages, even though the governing body had a total income of 2.7 billion Swiss francs and a gross profit of 115 million Swiss francs during this period.
The payments also came as Blatter – who fell out with his former subjects in 2008 – was preparing to campaign for re-election as FIFA president against Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar, where Platini’s influence on European voters was seen as a determining factor. Platini was expected to run in that election, but in the end he did not run for office.
The trial is the culmination of a case that began in 2015 when Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings against Blatter to a Police raid on FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
This led to Blatter stepping down as FIFA president just days after winning a record fifth election and ending Platini’s campaign to succeed his former mentor. they were later hung She was banned from playing football by the FIFA Ethics Committee.
While a broader investigation by the authorities in the United States has led to several FIFA executives They are arrested and convicted On charges including extortion, electronic fraud and money laundering, this is the first time Blatter or Platini have faced criminal charges.
But Blatter, who was suffering from a serious bout of ill health after undergoing heart surgery in December 2020, is also facing a separate criminal case related to allowing FIFA to pay $1 million to Trinidad and Tobago in 2010 under the control of the then FIFA vice president. Jack Warner. Two former FIFA officials are suspects in this investigation.
Blatter is still banned from playing football. Last year, the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee extended his ban to 2027 after finding it in violation of rules regarding the duty of loyalty, conflicts of interest and the offer or acceptance of gifts or other benefits. They described his behavior as “utterly reprehensible”.
Meanwhile, Platini is no longer playing football after his four-year ban expired in 2019 as he struggled to clear his name. He asserts that he is the victim of a conspiracy to deprive him of the presidency of FIFA and that he paid taxes on the amount of two million Swiss francs after receiving it.
He accused Swiss prosecutors of colluding with the current FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, and of “relentlessly wanting to be unjustifiably implicated in a case in which my good faith was fully acknowledged”. As his lawyer Dominique Nelen said: “We are confident that the outcome of the trial will prove the good faith of Mr. Michel Platini in this case, which was fabricated to remove him from the FIFA presidency.”
These arguments will be carried out in 11 days of a dramatic trial that promises to be one of the most famous events in the long and often sloppy history of football politics.