Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, once two of the most powerful figures in world football, have been acquitted on fraud charges by the Swiss federal criminal court.
The two men had been charged over a payment of two million Swiss francs (around $2 million) to Platini in 2011, when the Frenchman was president of European football’s governing body UEFA. Blatter, who was FIFA president at the time, authorized the payment for consultancy services between 1998 and 2002; prosecutors alleged it had been made without a legal basis. The judge acquitted them and Platini will get back his money.
“The truth has coming to light during this trial and I deeply thank the judges of the tribunal for the independence of their decision,” said Platini. “I kept saying it — my fight is a fight against injustice. I won a first game. In this case, there are culprits who did not appear during this trial. 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.
“Believe me, going from being a legend of world soccer to a devil is very difficult, especially when it comes to you in a totally unfair way.”
Speaking after the trial, Blatter described himself as “relaxed, definitely, because during seven years I was always under pressure because there was a court case opened against me. Now it’s finished, so I am happy. I am also happy for international football.”
Platini and Blatter were banned from football for eight years in 2015 amid a major investigation into corruption at FIFA by the U.S. Department of Justice. Blatter, 86, saw a 17-year reign as president of world football’s governing body brought to an abrupt end while Platini’s hopes of eventually succeeding him lay in tatters.
During the trial, Blatter said that he had asked Platini to serve as an adviser when he began his tenure as FIFA president. Platini, a three-time Ballon d’Or winner from his playing days, had asked for an annual salary of one million Swiss francs, a sum that the organization could not afford. The two agreed that Platini would be paid 300,000 Swiss francs at the time with the rest to be paid at a later date.
A written judgement published by the court stated: “After examining and evaluating all evidence and circumstantial evidence as well as hearing various witnesses in the main hearing, the criminal court came to the conclusion that the result of the evidence supports the version of the accused [Blatter and Platini].
“The facts of the indictment cannot therefore be considered to have been created with a probability bordering on certainty.”
A statement from the Swiss Attorney General’s office said: “The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has taken note of the decision of the Criminal Chamber of the Federal Criminal Court. Once the Court has issued the written reasoning of its decision, the OAG will decide about how to further proceed.”