world news / Sport Issued on: 08/07/2022 – 10:46
Former FIFA head Joseph Blatter pictured outside the court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, on July 8, 2022. © Alessandro Crinari, AP Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and France footballing legend Michel Platini were both cleared of corruption charges by a Swiss court on Friday.
Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, was cleared of fraud by the Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona.
Platini, a former France national team captain and manager, was also acquitted of fraud.
The two, once among the most powerful figures in global soccer, had denied the charges against them.
Prosecutors had accused Blatter, a Swiss who led global soccer body FIFA for 17 years, and Platini, of unlawfully arranging for FIFA to pay the Frenchman two million Swiss francs ($2.06 million) in 2011.
The case meant Blatter ended his reign as FIFA president in disgrace and it wrecked Platini’s hopes of succeeding him after he was banned from football when the affair came to light.
Blatter, 86, had said the two-million franc payment followed a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the pair when he asked Platini to be his technical adviser in 1998.
Platini, 67, worked as a consultant between 1998 and 2002 with an annual salary of 300,000 Swiss francs – the most FIFA could afford because of money troubles the organisation had at the time, Blatter has told the court.
Football legend Michel Platini arrives at the court to hear the verdict on July 8, 2022. © Fabrice Coffrini, AFP The rest of Platini’s one million per year salary was to be settled at a later date, Blatter said.
Motives for the payment were unclear, although the two men met in 2010 and discussed the upcoming elections for the FIFA presidency in 2011.
When Blatter approved the payment, he was campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Platini, then president of European soccer association UEFA, was seen as having sway with European members who could influence the vote.
The payment emerged following a huge investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice into bribery, fraud and money-laundering at FIFA in 2015, which triggered Blatter’s resignation.
Both officials were banned in 2015 from soccer for eight years over the payment, although their bans were later reduced.
Platini, who also lost his job as UEFA president following the ban, said the affair was a deliberate attempt to thwart his attempt to become FIFA president in 2015.
Platini’s former general secretary at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, entered the FIFA race and won the election in 2016.