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Monday, August 15, 2022

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini cleared of corruption charges

Sepp Blatter (left) and Michel Platini (right) during their days running FIFA and UEFA, respectively

Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter and vice-president Michel Platini have both been found not guilty following their fraud trial in Switzerland.

The pair stood trial over a payment of 2m Swiss francs (£1.6m) made by Blatter to Platini in 2011.

Both men had denied wrongdoing and said the transfer was belated payment for Platini’s advisory work for Fifa.

On his arrival at the court on Friday, Blatter said: “I am not innocent in my life but in this case I am innocent.”

Blatter, 86, and former Uefa president Platini, 67, were banned from football in 2015 and indicted last November.

I won a first game – Platini

Following a case that was opened in 2015, their 11-day trial over the 2011 payment took place at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona and concluded on 22 June.

“I wanted to express my happiness for all my loved ones that justice has finally been done after seven years of lies and manipulation,” said Platini.

“The truth has come to light during this trial and I deeply thank the judges of the tribunal for the independence of their decision.

“I kept saying it – my fight is a fight against injustice. I won a first game.

“In this case, there are culprits who did not appear during this trial. Let them count on me, we will meet again because I will not give up and I will go all the way in my quest for truth.”

Frenchman Platini had an illustrious playing career in football and is a three-time Ballon d’Or winner.

He captained France to victory at the 1984 European Championship and won the 1985 European Cup with Juventus.

Platini later went on to coach the French national team and became Uefa president in 2007.

When his own conduct was investigated by Fifa’s ethics committee as part of a wider bid to root out corruption from the organisation, he stood down from the presidency of Uefa and was subsequently banned from football for eight years, though that was later reduced to four.

His appeal against the ban was rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) in 2020.

“Believe me, going from being a legend of world soccer to a devil is very difficult, especially when it comes to you in a totally unfair way,” added Platini.

What happened during the trial?

In his testimony during the trial, Blatter said he asked Platini to be his adviser when he was first appointed president of football’s world governing body in 1998.

He said former France captain Platini wanted 1m Swiss francs (£816,030) per year but Blatter told him Fifa could not afford that fee.

They instead settled on 300,000 Swiss francs (£244,809) per year, with the outstanding total to be paid at a later date.

“I knew when we started with Michel Platini that is not the total, and we would look at it later,” Blatter had told the court during the trial, adding they shook hands on their “gentleman’s agreement”.

He added: “It was an agreement between two sportsmen. I found nothing wrong with that.”

Platini said: “I trusted the president, and knew he would pay me one day.”

Platini stopped working for Fifa in 2002 but did not pursue the payment until 2010, telling the court he had not needed the money at the time of his departure, when – according to Blatter – Fifa was in any case “broke”.

However, Platini later heard that two former employees had received substantial payments and approached Fifa, who he said told him to send an invoice. He did so in January 2011, with the money paid 10 days later after approval by Blatter.

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General accused Blatter and Platini of “fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document”.

Platini, who was also charged as an accomplice, said he felt the ban was a deliberate attempt to stop him from becoming Fifa president in 2015.

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