A Swiss court on Friday acquitted former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and French football legend Michel Platini of corruption charges.
Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, was acquitted by the Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona of fraud. Platini, the former France captain and manager, was also acquitted of the fraud charge.
Prosecutors have accused Blatter and Platini of illegally arranging FIFA to pay the French player 2 million Swiss francs ($2.06 million) in 2011. Prosecutors had asked the court to impose a 20-month suspended prison sentence on the two men and force them to pay Zurich-based FIFA 2.23 million Swiss francs.
The case meant that Blatter had ended his tenure as FIFA president in disgrace and destroyed Platini’s hopes of succeeding him after he was banned from playing football when the case arose. Blatter, 86, had said that the estimated 2 million francs came after a “honour agreement” between the couple when he asked Platini to be his technical advisor in 1998.
Platini told the court that Platini, 67, worked as a consultant between 1998 and 2002 with an annual salary of 300,000 Swiss francs – the most that FIFA was able to afford due to the financial problems faced by the organization at the time. Blatter said that the rest of Platini’s salary, amounting to one million annually, will be settled at a later date.
“I want to express my happiness to all my loved ones because justice has finally been served after seven years of lies and manipulation,” Platini said in a statement.
“The truth came to light during this trial,” he added. I kept saying it: My battle is to fight injustice. I won the first match.
The motives for the alleged payment were unclear, although the two men met in 2010 and discussed the upcoming elections for the FIFA presidency in 2011. When Blatter agreed to pay, he was campaigning for re-election against Qatar’s Mohammed bin Hammam. Platini, then president of UEFA, was seen as influencing European members who could influence the vote.
Prosecutors said a verbal agreement between the two men to pay Platini two million francs later for his consulting work did not exist, calling it an “invention”. The payments emerged after a massive investigation launched by the US Department of Justice into bribery, fraud and money laundering at FIFA in 2015, which led to Blatter’s resignation.
Both officials were banned in 2015 from playing football for eight years due to payment, although the ban was later relaxed.
Platini, who lost his position as UEFA president after the ban, said the case was a deliberate attempt to thwart his bid to become FIFA president in 2015.
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