They were once the most important senior officials in world football. A deep case ensued, now culminating in the trial before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland. The hearing begins on Wednesday, and the hearing is scheduled to last 11 days, until June 22. Blatter will be questioned on Wednesday, followed by Platini and witnesses on Thursday.
The accused faces up to five years in prison if convicted. The Swiss judiciary is responsible because both associations are headquartered there. In Bellinzona, FIFA acts as a joint claimant.
The two former officials are accused of deceiving the World League over a pending Platini claim. The money was intended for Platini’s consulting activities from July 1998 to mid-2002. In 2010, according to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, Platini presented a “fake invoice” for two million Swiss francs and Blatter confirmed it. The amount was transferred from the FIFA account to a platinum account in 2011, and the FIFA also paid 229,126 francs in social security contributions.
Swiss federal prosecutors charge 86-year-old Blatter with fraud, breach of trust and forgery. Platini deals with fraud, aiding and abetting infidelity and forgery. The authority considers that a compensation of 300,000 Swiss francs per year has been contractually agreed upon for Platini’s consulting work. Only later Platini asked for an additional two million francs.
Millions poured in at a time when Blatter was still fighting against then-AFC President Mohammed bin Hamman of Qatar for re-election. Platini, as UEFA president, has been credited with influencing voters from Europe.
The FIFA Ethics Committee recognized a conflict of interest in 2015 and initially suspended Blatter and Platini for eight years. This penalty was later reduced, but it still spelled the end of Platini’s FIFA plans. The former world-class French footballer is credited with his ambitions to succeed Blatter at FIFA. In 2016, Gianni Infantino was elected as the new president instead.
The 66-year-old Platini’s defense says the trial was “the result of a conspiracy”. One could “show in detail that the actions against Mr. Platini were politically motivated with the aim of preventing him from becoming FIFA President,” Dominic Nelen, Platini’s lawyer, told dpa. “We are confident that this action will lead to a positive outcome, which will show Mr. Michel Platini’s complete dedication in this matter. The aim of this story was to eliminate him from the position of FIFA President.”
Blatter has long dismissed the allegations and said he is looking forward to the trial “with optimism”: “I hope this story ends and all the facts are properly addressed,” he said recently. Platini gave the money and verbally agreed to it. “The matter has been correctly calculated as payment of wages and approved by all relevant FIFA bodies.”
Meeting days are always set in the morning, with the goal of keeping Blatter healthy. At the beginning of 2021, after surgery, he was temporarily in an artificial deep sleep. It is questionable whether unanswered questions will also be answered in the process, such as how Swiss criminal investigators discovered the $2 million payment. The verdict is expected to be announced on July 8.
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