FIFA members Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were indicted on charges of corruption, racketeering, and money laundering after an investigation by the U.S. Department Of Justice The indictments came as FIFA is still reeling from a series of bribery scandals that led to its president being banned for eight years over his own misconduct..
Swiss prosecutors said on Wednesday that the two men, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini were indicted for criminal mismanagement. It is believed their charges stem from a 2 million Swiss franc ($1.9 million) payment made in 2011 to Platini by FIFA when he was head of European football’s governing body between 1998-2007., The indictment opens “a new stage in the fight against impunity,” according to prosecutor Yves Baccaglini. This comes after Uefa rejected disciplinary proceedings launched against France Football magazine over claims it had given information about alleged corruption surrounding Qatar winning the 2022 World Cup bid, which was later confirmed by an independent report led by US lawyer Michael Garcia late last year., “I am speaking here of several cases where individuals have been exonerated following investigations conducted with support from investigative journalism”, says Garcia who also oversaw work during his time at Fifa – but did not implicate any named individual or country..
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have been indicted on fraud charges. The two were accused of receiving a total of 2 million euros from the former FIFA president.
Swiss prosecutors have accused Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini. Getty Images/AFP/Fabrice Coffrini
After a six-year investigation into a disputed $2 million payment, Swiss prosecutors accused Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president, and Michel Platini, the ex-president of UEFA, with fraud and other violations on Tuesday.
Blatter, 85, and Platini, 66, will now stand trial in federal criminal court in Bellinzona. If proven guilty, they may face many years in prison, but Swiss trials often take years to resolve.
In a statement, Swiss federal authorities stated, “This payment harmed FIFA’s assets and wrongfully benefitted Platini.”
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The lawsuit was initiated in September 2015, when Blatter was removed from his position as FIFA president ahead of schedule. It also put a stop to Platini’s bid to replace his mentor.
It revolves on Platini’s written request to FIFA in January 2011 for backpay for his time as a presidential advisor during Blatter’s first term, from 1998 to 2002. FIFA must make the money within weeks, according to Blatter. He was prepared to run for re-election in a race against Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam, in which Platini’s clout among European voters was a significant component.
Prosecutors noted that “the evidence acquired by the [attorney general’s office] has substantiated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis.”
Both Blatter and Platini have always denied wrongdoing, citing a verbal agreement they made for the money to be paid more than 20 years ago.
Blatter has been accused with forgery of a document, fraud, mismanagement, and theft of FIFA money. Platini has been accused with forgery, fraud, and being an accomplice to Blatter’s alleged mismanagement. Fraud and forgery crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison.
In a statement, Blatter said, “I approach the proceedings at the federal criminal court with optimism — and hope that, with this, this narrative will come to a close and all the facts will be dealt out thoroughly.”
Platini was not formally investigated until last year, and it was only months later that the more severe charge of fraud was leveled against both individuals. The three-time Ballon d’Or winner, who was captain of France when they won the European Championship in 1984, stated on Tuesday that he feels “absolutely sure and serene” about the result.
“I categorically deny these baseless and unjust charges,” Platini stated in a statement.
Platini has always said, and Blatter reiterated on Tuesday, that the money was disclosed and taxed in Switzerland. Prosecutors had filed criminal charges against Blatter ahead of a police raid on FIFA headquarters in Zurich on the day he and Platini attended an executive committee meeting.
That followed four months after the early-morning arrests of officials from the Americas at fancy hotels in Zurich in May 2015, as part of a massive US Department of Justice corruption probe into international soccer.
In the aftermath of the hotel raids, Blatter declared his intention to quit and call a new vote to nominate a replacement only days after being elected FIFA president for the fifth time. Platini had been widely anticipated to succeed Blatter as FIFA president, but his campaign was halted by a police raid to FIFA’s headquarters, despite the fact that he was not yet a suspect.
Both individuals were suspended for many weeks before being banned for six years by FIFA’s ethics committee. On appeal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced Platini’s suspension to four years, and he was permitted to return to soccer duty in October 2019. He was said to be running for a place on the executive board of FIFPRO, the international federation of soccer player unions.
Because Blatter’s health has deteriorated, a last session of interrogation by Swiss investigators has been postponed until August. Blatter spent a week in an induced coma after having heart surgery in December.
Blatter is now facing a separate criminal investigation concerning his role in directing a $1 million FIFA payment to Trinidad and Tobago into the hands of then-FIFA vice president Jack Warner in 2010. In addition, two former FIFA officials have been named as suspects in the probe.
Following upheaval in the attorney general’s office, prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand joined the case, refocusing the Swiss investigations against Blatter and then Platini. Olivier Thormann, the former chief prosecutor, resigned the federal office in late 2018 after being exonerated of a misconduct allegation in the probe.
Hildbrand was subsequently invited on to the investigative team with the reputation of having managed a prior high-profile case involving FIFA: the 2001 financial collapse of World Cup marketing firm ISL. Hildbrand hails from the same hometown as Blatter. Blatter’s attorneys were unsuccessful in their attempt to get Hildbrand removed from the present case in court.
Michael Lauber, the Swiss attorney general in charge of FIFA investigations, resigned last year due to misbehavior. In an internal probe regarding his unreported meetings with current FIFA president Gianni Infantino, he was found to have lied. Infantino became FIFA’s president in 2016 after stepping in as UEFA’s emergency election candidate after Michel Platini was suspended and eventually banned.