Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were once in charge of world football and European football. On Friday, they were cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with a suspected fraudulent payment that shook the sport and ended their time at the top.
The Federal Criminal Court in Switzerland’s southern city of Bellinzona found the two not guilty after a long investigation that began in 2015 and took six years to finish.
Blatter, who was the president of FIFA from 1974 to 1998 and is now 86 years old, and Platini, who is 67 years old, sat quietly as the clerk read the verdict, which denied the prosecution’s request for a suspended prison sentence of one year and eight months.
“In this case, a neutral court has finally decided that no crime has been done. As a result, my client has nothing to worry about and is relieved “Dominic Nellen, Platini’s lawyer, said.
Platini, a former French football star, made a short statement in which he said he had “won the first round” and made a reference to what he said were political and legal schemes to get rid of him.
“In this case, some of the people who did wrong did not show up to court. Let them know they can count on me: we’ll find each other “he said.
Blatter hired Platini to be a consultant from 1998 to 2002.
Blatter told the court that when he became president of FIFA in 1998, the governing body of world football had a bad reputation and he thought a top player could help.
He asked Platini for advice, which included going on trips for political reasons, changing the international calendar, and giving money to the national federations.
In 1999, they signed a contract that gave them a salary of 300,000 Swiss francs per year, which FIFA paid in full.
But the two were tried because of a payment of 2.05 million Swiss francs to Platini in 2011. At the time, Platini was in charge of UEFA, which is the governing body for football in Europe.
– ‘Gentleman’s agreement’ –
Blatter, the former head of world football, told the court that he and Platini had made a “gentleman’s agreement” that Platini would be paid one million Swiss francs a year.
Blatter, who was president of FIFA at the time, said yes when Platini asked him for a million dollars in jest. Blatter didn’t say what kind of money it was, but the court heard that part of the money would be paid “later,” which wasn’t in the contract they signed.
Blatter said that the rest of the money would be paid when FIFA’s shaky finances would allow it. The deal was made verbally and without witnesses.
Platini was accused of sending a fake invoice to FIFA in 2011 for a debt he said he still owed for his consulting work.
Both of them were charged with fraud and making a fake document. Blatter was charged with theft and criminal mismanagement, and Platini was charged with taking part in these crimes.
Blatter and Platini said they were innocent the whole time they were on trial from June 8 to June 22.
But the court said that the fraud was not “established with a likelihood bordering on certainty,” so it used the general rule of criminal law that “the doubt must benefit the accused.”
The Swiss Office of the Attorney General is the one who filed the charge.
The main offices of both FIFA and UEFA are in Switzerland, in the cities of Zurich and Nyon, respectively.
Power drama: Both Platini and Blatter were banned from the sport right when Platini seemed like the best person to take Blatter’s place as head of the organization that rules football around the world.
The two friends turned into rivals when Platini got impatient to take over, and Blatter’s time in office was cut short by a separate FIFA corruption scandal in 2015 that was looked into by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Joseph “Sepp” Blatter joined FIFA in 1975. In 1981, he became its general secretary, and in 1998, he became the head of the organization that runs football around the world.
In 2015, he was forced to step down, and FIFA banned him for eight years, which was later cut to six. This was because he approved the payment to Platini, which FIFA said was made for his own benefit rather than FIFA’s.
Platini is thought to be one of the best football players of all time. He won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1983, 1984, and 1985. This is the most prestigious award for an individual.
From January 2007 to December 2015, Platini was the head of UEFA.
He went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to try to get his eight-year ban reduced, and it was cut to four years.