This is a case that caused thea fall of two major leaders in world football. Banished at the end of 2015, the former boss of UEFA Michel Platini, and the ex-president of the International Football Federation (Fifa) Sepp Blatter appear for “fraud” from Wednesday June 8 before the Federal Criminal Court from Bellinzona, south-eastern Switzerland.
The trial of the two men, which concerns the case of a suspicious payment of almost two million euros, is expected to last until June 22. A decision is expected on July 8. Franceinfo: sport takes stock of what constitutes one of the most important scandals in football in the 21st century.
What are Platini and Blatter accused of?
The main case targets a payment of 2 million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros) from Fifa to Michel Platini in 2011, for work as an adviser completed in 2002. The former France international indeed advised Sepp Blatter between 1998 and 2002, during the Swiss leader’s first term as head of FIFA, according to a written contract signed in 1999.
He agreed to an annual remuneration of 300,000 Swiss francs, invoiced by the ex-captain of the Blues and fully paid by Fifa. However, in 2011, almost nine years after the end of his activity as an adviser, Michael Platini “claimed a claim of 2 million francs Swiss”, paid by the football authority “with the competition” by Sepp Blatter affirmed in November the public prosecutor of the Swiss Confederation.
According to the latter, “the evidence collected (…) has reinforced the suspicion that this payment to Platini was made without foundation”. Michael Platini, 66, and Sepp Blatter, 85, were thus indicted for “fraud”, “unfair management”, “breach of trust” and “false in the titles”.
What is their defense?
Since the beginning of the investigation, the two men hammer that it is a balance of payment for work as an adviser carried out by the Frenchman between 1999 and 2002. They declare that they have orally decided, and without witnesses, of an annual salary of one million Swiss francs, without the finances of Fifa allowing payment to Michel Platini at the time. They claim to have simply settled the balance late, in 2011.
At the end of 2018, Michel Platini filed a complaint against X for “slanderous denunciation” and “conspiracy“. “It’s all a conspiracy, a conspiracy (…) OHe didn’t want me to be president of Fifa”said the French, in November 2019, on franceinfo.
The two defendants also denounced the attitude of Gianni Infantino, in particular in the initiation of the investigation. Former right-hand man of the French at UEFA and unexpectedly elected head of Fifa in 2016, the Italian-Swiss has been targeted since 2020 by a procedure relating to three secret meetings with the former chief prosecutor. However, the Swiss justice refused to link the two files.
Last April, Michel Platini made public the filing of a complaint in Paris against Gianni Infantino for “active influence peddling” and against Marco Villiger, former legal director of Fifa, for “complicity in active influence peddling”.
What sanctions have been taken against the two men since the start of the case?
This case brought down the two former leaders. Between 2015 and 2016, Platini and Blatter alternated between suspension decisions, appeals and appeals. First of all suspended in October 2015 by Fifa’s Ethics Committee for a period of 90 days, they were both suspended on December 21 by Fifa from all football-related activities for eight years. Two months later, the suspension of Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter was reduced to six years by the appeals committee.
In early May 2016, the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced Platini’s suspension from six to four years, the length of one term. Blatter’s was maintained at six years. Between these seven months of procedure, the former French leader announced, on February 25, his withdrawal from the election to the presidency of Fifa.
On his side, Sepp Blatter is still subject to legal proceedings in another case, that of the controversial awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Last November, he was heard as “witness” in the framework of a judicial investigation opened in France by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF). A Preliminary investigation has was carried out for three years by the PNF, which then entrusted the investigations to an investigating judge in 2019, for “active and passive corruption”, “receiving” and “laundering”.
What do the two defendants risk?
The challenge of the trial is to remove the mystery around the oral payment agreement. The two defendants will have to explain the contradiction between the 1999 contract, the fact that this debt has never been provisioned by Fifa, and the contrast with the usual practices of the instance. The latter has never paid any employee or consultant “without written basis”, assured his former HRD in the disciplinary aspect of the procedure.
Fifa, a civil party in this case, intends to be reimbursed for the salary and social charges paid in 2011, “so that the money embezzled by the defendants for personal purposes is returned to the one and only purpose for which it was intended: football”, pointed out to AFP Catherine Hohl-Chirazi, the litigation attorney. Simple fraud is punishable by five years in prison “or a pecuniary penalty” in Swiss law.