The Public Ministry of the Confederation requires a suspended prison sentence of 1 year and 8 months for both Joseph Blatter and Michel Platini. The latter will also have to pay compensation of approximately 2.2 million francs. The two men are accused of having defrauded the football authority by obtaining for the Frenchman an unjustified payment of 2 million francs.
Implacable on the “deception” lent to the defendants before the Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona, the prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand nevertheless refrained from demanding a firm sentence, while the former leaders, fixed on their fate on July 8, incur in principle 5 years of imprisonment. For five hours, he tried to unravel the secret affair that shattered the careers of the ex-allies in 2015 when Platini, then president of UEFA, seemed ideally placed to succeed Blatter at the head of FIFA.
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“The only thing that counts is their behavior with regard to criminal law”, immediately recalled the prosecutor, leaving any political dimension out of scope to focus on the 2 million Swiss francs granted in 2011 by FIFA to Michel Platini, with the endorsement by Sepp Blatter.
Blatter, the “chameleon”
It does not matter therefore that this file only resurfaced in 2015 and propelled to the head of world football the unexpected Gianni Infantino, right arm of Michel Platini at UEFA, targeted since 2020 by a separate procedure for three secret meetings with the floor. Heard last Thursday by the court, the 66-year-old Frenchman and the 86-year-old Swiss claim to have “orally” decided that Platini would receive 1 million Swiss francs a year to advise Blatter between 1998 and 2002, just after having helped him access at the head of FIFA.
But this agreement concluded without witnesses, contrary to “commercial practices” and never provisioned in the accounts of the organization, was invented after the fact to justify the invoice presented in 2011 by the triple Ballon d’Or, replied Thomas Hildbrand on Wednesday. For him, Platini’s work was fully covered by an August 1999 contract providing for 300,000 Swiss francs a year, where the two men claim to have agreed to pay “the rest later”, when finances of FIFA would allow it.
Incredible, swept the magistrate: even if the body had paid 1 million Swiss francs to Platini in 1999, it would still have had “more than 21 million francs in cash”, reserves rising to 327 million in 2002. Gold Sepp Blatter, who joined FIFA in 1975, “had perfect knowledge” of his solvency. “When a chameleon feels threatened, it changes color: Blatter does the same thing,” said Thomas Hildbrand, for whom “there is no reason why FIFA” should have deferred payment.
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The mobile question still open
Further inconsistency in the eyes of the prosecution, Platini ended up claiming at the beginning of 2011 500,000 annual francs for this period, rather than 700,000, explaining afterwards that he had never checked the sum which had been initially paid to him. “Was it only at the time of the invoice to FIFA that he would have lost his mathematical abilities?” pretended to question the magistrate, recalling that the Frenchman had “passed a calculation test without any problem” during his interrogation.
Thomas Hildbrand also pointed out that Jérôme Valcke, secretary general of FIFA in 2011, had told investigators that Platini had first asked for 4 million francs, before establishing an invoice half as high. “If you go from 4 to 2, it means that there has been negotiation, agreement between the parties”, advanced the magistrate, making this sum the counterpart of “a personal service” from Platini to Blatter.
But which one, when no motive appears in the indictment? Carefully, the prosecutor mentioned the support of the Frenchman and the executive committee of UEFA for the re-election of Blatter to a fourth term, at the end of May 2011. “The question of whether this payment is in connection with the election must remain open. , in the absence of convincing evidence,” acknowledged Thomas Hildbrand, leaving the shadow of corruption hanging over the courtroom.
On the eve of the indictment, the former financial director of FIFA Markus Kattner was heard as a witness. The central question was whether he had drawn the attention of the Public Ministry of the Confederation (MPC) to the suspicious payment of 2 million francs to the former UEFA president Michel Platini, as had been claimed former federal attorney general and current federal criminal judge Olivier Thormann in a deposition. A version that the former chief financial officer contradicted: he told the court that he remembered the payment in question, but that he had not specifically drawn the attention of the MPC to this point, having no reason to mention specific payments. He also declared himself “convinced of the legitimacy of the payment”, and did not have the impression that Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were lying to him.
Started last Wednesday, the trial should continue until June 22 with the pleadings of FIFA, civil party, then of the defense.
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