Blatter and Platini Face Fraud Charges in FIFA Corruption Probe
LONDON, 2 NOVEMBER (FINANCIAL TIMES)
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the former heads of world and European football, have been charged with fraud by Swiss authorities as part of a long-running corruption investigation into conduct of executives who once ran the world’s favourite sport.
The men were indicted on Tuesday following a six-year investigation into a SFr2m ($2m) payment authorised by Blatter to be paid to Platini in 2011, which was allegedly made for backdated additional salary.
The Swiss Attorney General’s office said on Tuesday: “This payment damaged Fifa’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini.”
At the time, Blatter was the president of Fifa, world football’s governing body, while Platini, a former French national team captain, was the president of Uefa, the organisation that runs the game in Europe.
Blatter, 85, and Platini, 65, have each been charged with fraud, misappropriation, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document. They now face a trial within months at federal criminal court in Switzerland.
Over the past decade, Zurich-based Fifa has faced multiple corruption investigations from US, French and Swiss authorities. Dozens of football officials have been arrested, indicted or imprisoned as a result of alleged bribes paid to top football executives over many years.
Blatter and Platini were forced to resign over revelations that corruption was pervasive at the top of Fifa. They faced an ethics investigation into the SFr2m payment which led to bans from working in football, in effect ending their decades-long careers in the sport.
In 2019, Platini was also questioned by French police over his involvement in the awarding of the upcoming 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
“I view the trial before the Federal Criminal Court with optimism — and hope that with it this story comes to an end and all facts are properly dealt with,” Blatter said in a statement through his lawyers. He reiterated that the payment was based on a verbal agreement he made with Platini and that Fifa had given its approval.
Platini said: “I fully challenge these unfounded and unfair accusations.”
Fifa said: “If and when the funds are successfully recovered, they will be channelled back into football development, as they should have been in the first place.” Uefa declined to comment.
Blatter’s successor at Fifa, Gianni Infantino, was elected in 2016 after pledging to clean up the organisation.
In May, Stefan Keller, a Swiss special prosecutor who had spearheaded a separate corruption investigation into meetings held between Infantino and former Swiss attorney-general Michael Lauber, was forced to step down. That move appeared to close down legal probes into Fifa executives.
Fifa has sought to move on from Blatter’s leadership, such as by pointing to its co-operation with US authorities on their investigations. The US Department of Justice said in August that it would hand back to Fifa more than $200m in seized forfeited funds linked to the scandal.