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Blatter, Platini charged with fraud by Swiss authorities

FOOTBALL By Reuters | November 2nd 2021 | 3 min read
A file picture taken on May 29, 2015 shows FIFA President Sepp Blatter (Foreground-L) shakes hands with UEFA president Michel Platini after being re-elected following a vote to decide on the FIFA presidency in Zurich. [AFP, Michael Buholzer]

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and ex-UEFA president Michel Platini have been indicted over unlawfully arranging a payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.19 million), the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland said on Tuesday.

Swiss prosecutors have been probing Blatter, 85, over accusations he arranged the payment from world soccer's governing body FIFA to Platini in February 2011.

The Swiss investigation was opened in 2015 amidst the series of scandals which engulfed FIFA. The affair led to a FIFA ethics investigation which saw both men banned from the game and forced to leave their positions.

The OAG 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 captained France to victory in the 1984 European Championship, was also charged as an accomplice.

Blatter and Platini were both banned in 2016 from soccer for six years over the payment, made with Blatter's approval for work done a decade earlier. Both had denied any wrongdoing.

"I look forward to the trial before the Federal Criminal Court with optimism and I hope that this story will come to an end and that all the facts will be dealt with properly," Blatter said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Regarding the payment of the sum of two million francs from Fifa to Michel Platini, I can only repeat myself: It was based on an oral contract that regulated Platini's advisory activities for FIFA between 1998 and 2002," he added.

Blatter said the payment had been delayed because FIFA was not able to pay the entire amount and that Platini only made his claim for the money in 2010.

The former FIFA president said that the payments had been approved by "all responsible FIFA bodies" and that Platini had paid tax on the amount "at his Swiss place of residence". Platini did not immediately respond to a request for comment but last month his Swiss lawyer Dominic Nellen said: "From the defense's point of view, it is clear that the investigation should have been discontinued long ago. There are enough witness reports and documents in the case files that prove my client's innocence. The defense has now requested various witnesses."

The OAG said its investigation revealed that Platini worked as a consultant for then FIFA president Blatter between 1998-2002 and that an annual compensation of 300,000 Swiss francs was agreed upon in a written contract.

The OAG said Platini had invoiced the contract and had been paid in full but the 66-year-old former France international continued to demand payment.

"Over eight years after the termination of his advisory activity, Platini demanded a payment in the amount of two million Swiss francs," the OAG said.

"With Blatter's involvement, FIFA made a payment to Platini in said amount at the beginning of 2011. The evidence gathered by the OAG has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis.

"This payment damaged FIFA's assets and unlawfully enriched Platini. In the view of the OAG, the accused have committed the offences listed."

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