Did Joseph Blatter, as FIFA President, illegally give his then friend Michel Platini two million Swiss francs? The circumstances are strange, but a court in Switzerland is clear in its assessment.
The trial for a dubious payment of millions against the two formerly powerful football officials Joseph Blatter and Michel Platini has ended with acquittals. In its judgment on Friday, the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona in the Swiss canton of Ticino did not consider it proven that Blatter Platini had unlawfully made a payment of two million Swiss francs (today around 2.02 million euros) from the world football association’s coffers Fifa had helped.
“I’m not innocent in my life, but I’m innocent in this case,” Blatter said upon arriving in court. The 86-year-old Swiss was President of Fifa until 2016, the Frenchman Platini (67) President of the European Football Union Uefa. According to her, the transfer of millions in 2011 was an additional payment for consulting work that Platini had done for Fifa from 1998 to 2002. At the turn of the millennium, Fifa did not have enough money to pay Platini in full. It was a “gentleman’s agreement,” as Blatter said.
On the other hand, there was speculation in the media at the time that Blatter wanted to use this payment from Platini to secure support for re-election to a new term in 2011 against a challenger. In return, he is said to have promised Platini to set him up as his successor in 2015, according to speculation.
In any case, the Swiss Attorney General saw no legal basis for the million-euro payment. She brought charges against Blatter and Platini, demanding a year and eight months in prison for each of them. Fifa’s ethics committee had banned the two officials for several years. A ban means they cannot attend football activities.
Fifa acted as joint plaintiff
The lawyers had pleaded for acquittal. Fifa appeared in the proceedings as a joint plaintiff and demanded the repayment of the amount and the social benefits paid on it.
Platini and his lawyer tried in the process to distract from the circumstances of the actual payment. They were more concerned with proving an alleged conspiracy. There is no motive for the alleged crime of fraud, but there is for the criminal proceedings.
For years, nobody in Fifa had objected to the payment, they argued – until 2015, just the year Platini wanted to apply to succeed Blatter. Platini and his lawyer suggested that the investigation was intended to end Platini’s chances for the top post.
Instead of Platini, Uefa General Secretary Gianni Infantino succeeded Blatter. He is still in office today. Why the million-euro payment in 2015 was targeted by the investigators was not the subject of the process.