Suspended prison sentence required against Platini and Blatter

The Swiss public prosecutor’s office on Wednesday requested a year and eight months in prison suspended against Michel Platini and the ex-president of Fifa Sepp Blatter, accusing them of having defrauded the world body of football by obtaining an unjustified payment.

Relentless on the “deception” lent to the defendants, 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 five years of imprisonment.

For five hours, before the Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona (south-east), he tried to untangle the drawer case which broke the career of the ex-allies in 2015 when Platini, then president of the UEFA, seemed ideally placed to succeed Blatter at the head of Fifa.

“The only thing that counts is their behavior under criminal law”, immediately recalled the prosecutor, leaving out of scope any political dimension to focus on the 2 million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros) granted in 2011 by Fifa to Michel Platini, with the endorsement of Sepp Blatter .

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.

Blatter the “Chameleon”

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 one million Swiss francs a year to advise Blatter between 1998 and 2002, just after having helped him to access at the head of FIFA.

But this agreement concluded without witnesses, contrary to “commercial practices” and never provisioned in the organization’s accounts, 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 Fifa’s finances would allow it.

Incredible, swept the magistrate: even if the authority had paid a million Swiss francs to Platini from 1999, it would still have had “more than 21 million francs in cash”reserves increased to 327 million in 2002.

But Sepp Blatter, who joined FIFA in 1975, “had perfect knowledge” of its solvency. “When a chameleon feels threatened, it changes color: Blatter does the same”launched Thomas Hildbrand, for whom “there is no reason why Fifa” should have deferred payment.

The Shadow of Corruption

Additional inconsistency in the eyes of the prosecution, Platini ended up claiming in early 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 when he was billed 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 a bill half as high.

“If you go from four to two, it means that there has been negotiation, agreement between the parties”, advanced the magistrate, making this sum the consideration “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.

Started last Wednesday, the trial should continue until June 22 with the pleadings of Fifa, civil party, then of the defense. That of Platini will plead for acquittal, he said in a statement, saying he was “serene and confident”.

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