A Swiss court has exonerated former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and former France footballer Michel Platini of all corruption-related charges. In the southern city of Bellinzona on Friday, July 8, the Federal Criminal Court found Blatter, who oversaw FIFA for 17 years, not guilty of fraud.
Platini, a former manager and captain of the France national team, was also cleared of fraud charges. The two, who were once among the most influential individuals in world soccer, had refuted the accusations. Following an investigation started by prosecutors in 2015 into a payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.6 million) arranged by Blatter to be made to Platini by FIFA in February 2011, those charges were brought against them in November.
The case forced Blatter to end his 17-year tenure as FIFA president in 2015 and dashed Platini’s chances of succeeding him. In 2016, Platini was made to resign from UEFA. Blatter declared: “I am not innocent in my life but in this case I am innocent!” as he stood outside the Swiss Federal Criminal Court on Friday morning; he and Platini have since been found not guilty.
Platini declared he would pursue the “culprits” who brought the case against him after the verdict was announced.
‘In this case, there are culprits who did not appear during this trial,’ the 1984 Euros winner said.
‘Let them count on me, we will meet again. Because I will not give up and I will go all the way in my quest for truth.’
Meanwhile, Blatter said: ‘I am not speaking about FIFA, I am not speaking about corruption, I am speaking about me.
‘That’s it, I have done nothing wrong. I am clean with my conscious, I am clean with my spirit, and I am clean with my anima (soul).’
Asked about his relationship with Platini, Blatter added: ‘It is a good relationship, we have been separated for years, but we are still good friends.’
‘The total acquittal of my client is the only correct outcome of these criminal proceedings,’ Dominic Nellen, Platini’s lawyer, told Le Monde.
‘The court properly assessed the evidence and finally ended this unspeakable criminal proceeding. A neutral court finally found that no crime had been committed in this case. My client is relieved as a result.’
Blatter, 86, had said the two-million franc payment followed a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between the pair when he asked Platini to be his technical advisor in 1998.
Platini, 67, worked as a consultant between 1998 and 2002 with an annual salary of 300,000 Swiss francs – the most FIFA could afford because of money troubles the organisation had at the time, Blatter has told the court.
That defence first failed with judges at the FIFA ethics committee, and later in separate appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The FIFA ethics committee investigations banned them from football for eight years, reduced to six on appeal.
Platini, who also lost his job as UEFA president following the ban, said the affair was a deliberate attempt to thwart his attempt to become FIFA president in 2015.
Platini’s former general secretary at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, entered the FIFA race and won the election in 2016.
Platini signed a contract with FIFA in August 1999 for 300,000 Swiss francs (£245,000) annually and backdated to January.
This was just one of 25 investigations by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) into corruption in football, with some 12 still pending.
The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also investigated corruption in the game.