Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini found not guilty after fraud case

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

The pair were on trial over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs (£1.6 million) that Blatter made to Platini in 2011.

Both men had denied doing anything wrong, saying the transfer was a late payment for Platini’s advisory work for FIFA.

On his arrival at 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

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

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

“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 perpetrators who have not appeared during this trial. Let them count on me. We will meet again because I will not give up and I will go to the extreme in my search for the truth.”

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

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

Platini later became coach of 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 effort to root out corruption in the organisation, he resigned as UEFA president and was subsequently banned from football for eight years, but that was later removed. reduced to four.

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

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

Swiss businessman and sports executive Blatter joined FIFA in 1975, became general secretary in 1981 and chairman of the governing body of world football in 1998.

He remained in the role for 17 years and, following an investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee, was given an eight-year suspension – later reduced to six.

In 2021, he was banned for another six years after the ethics committee investigated bonus payments.

After the verdict, Blatter said: “[I am] relaxed, sure, because for seven years I was always under pressure because a lawsuit had been opened against me.

“Now it’s done, so I’m happy. I’m also happy for international football.”

“It’s justice, but it’s a victory for me.”

In 2015, US prosecutors charged several top FIFA executives with corruption after a major FBI investigation.

The charges came after a dramatic raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich and the arrest of seven FIFA executives.

Blatter later resigned as FIFA president and Platini himself became embroiled in the investigation and withdrew his candidacy for the position.

FIFA also later suspended former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke of all football-related activity following allegations of misconduct in World Cup ticket sales and TV deals.

His 12-year suspension was later reduced to 10 in a decision confirmed by Cas.

What happened during the trial?

In his testimony at the trial, Blatter said he had asked Platini to be his adviser when he was first named president of the world governing body of football in 1998.

He said former French captain Platini wanted 1 million Swiss francs (£816,030) a year, but Blatter told him FIFA could not afford that fee.

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

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

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

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

Platini retired from working for FIFA in 2002, but did not continue the payment until 2010, telling the court that he did not need the money at the time of his departure, when – according to Blatter – FIFA was in any case “broken.” ” used to be.

Later, however, Platini learned that two former employees had received significant payments and approached FIFA, who told him to send an invoice. He did so in January 2011, and the money was paid by Blatter 10 days later after approval.

The Swiss Attorney General’s Office accused Blatter and Platini of “fraud, rather than embezzlement, rather than criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document”.

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

A written judgment published by the court read: “After examining and reviewing all evidence and circumstantial evidence, as well as hearing several witnesses at the main hearing, the criminal court concluded that the result of the evidence supports the defendant’s version. [Blatter and Platini]†

“The facts of the indictment cannot therefore be regarded as having been established with a probability bordering on certainty.”

FIFA said it “takes note of the verdict” and “will await the full reasoned verdict before commenting further”.

Timeline – a seven-year investigation

May 2015: Seven FIFA Officials arrested on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering† There was also a separate criminal investigation by the Swiss authorities into the distribution of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

May 29, 2015: Blatter is elected to a fifth term as FIFA president in a vote overshadowed by arrests and corruption charges.

June 2, 2015: Blatter announces that he will resign but will remain in charge until a special congress can elect a new leader.

july 2015: Platini, the president of UEFA, announces his intention to serve as FIFA president.

September 24, 2015: The Swiss Attorney General opens criminal proceedings for “dishonest management” and “breach of trust” against Blatter. He is suspected of making “an unfair payment” of two million Swiss francs to Platini in 2011.

October 8, 2015: FIFA suspends Blatter and Platini for 90 days.

Dec 21, 2015: Fifa’s ethics committee suspends Blatter and Platini for: eight years of all football related activities

January 8, 2016: Platini withdraws his candidacy for FIFA presidency.

February 24, 2016: The two suspensions are reduced to six years on appeal.

February 26, 2016: UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino is elected FIFA President.

May 9, 2016: Platini’s suspension has been reduced from six to four years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

Dec 5, 2016: Blatter’s six-year suspension is confirmed by Cas.

June 18, 2019: Platini has been arrested in Paris in connection with an investigation into Qatar’s award of the 2022 World Cup. Platini denied all allegations and was released after questioning.

December 11, 2019: FIFA announces legal action to get the refund of the two million Swiss Francs “wrongly” paid to Platini.

March 5, 2020: Platini loses appeal to European Court of Human Rights against his four-year suspension

September 1, 2020: Blatter is questioned by the Swiss Attorney General’s office about the payment to Platini.

Nov 2, 2020: Criminal case opened in Switzerland against Platini and Blatter for “fraud”

June 22, 2022: The Swiss Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona acquits Blatter and Platini after a trial.

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