Fallen soccer bosses Blatter and Platini face trial for fraud

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, once the leaders of world and European soccer, face trial on Wednesday over an alleged fraudulent payment that rocked the sport and torpedoed their time at the top. Former FIFA president Blatter, 86, and Platini, 66, begin a two-week trial at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona, following a gargantuan investigation that began in 2015 and lasted six years. The pair are on trial over a 2011 payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.08 million) to Platini, who was then in charge of European soccer’s governing body UEFA. They are accused of having illegally obtained, to the detriment of FIFA, the payment, plus social security contributions, of 229,126 francs, in favor of Platini. The former French soccer great “submitted to FIFA in 2011 an allegedly fictitious invoice for an (alleged) still-existing debt for his activity as an adviser to FIFA in the years 1998 to 2002,” according to the court. The defendants are charged with fraud and forgery of a document. Blatter is accused of misappropriation and criminal mismanagement, while Platini is accused of participating in those crimes. The indictment was filed by the Swiss Attorney General’s Office (OAG). The trial will conclude on June 22 and the three judges will deliver their verdict on July 8. The defendants could face up to five years in prison or a fine. Both FIFA and UEFA are based in Switzerland, in Zurich and Nyon, respectively. – ‘Oral contract’ – Platini and retired Swiss soccer administrator Blatter were banned from the sport at a time when Platini seemed ideally positioned to succeed Blatter as head of world soccer’s governing body. The two allies became rivals as Platini grew impatient to take over, while Blatter’s tenure was quickly ended by a separate 2015 FIFA corruption scandal investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the Bellinzona trial, the defense and the prosecution agree on one point: Platini was hired as Blatter’s adviser between 1998 and 2002. They signed a contract in 1999 for an annual salary of 300,000 francs. “The compensation agreed to under this contract was invoiced by Platini on each occasion and paid in full by FIFA,” the OAG said. However, more than eight years after the end of his advisory role, the former France captain “demanded a payment of two million francs,” the OAG alleged. “With the participation of Blatter, FIFA made a payment to Platini for said amount in early 2011. The evidence gathered by the Prosecution has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without legal basis. This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and illegally enriched Platini,” the federal prosecutor’s office alleges. The men insist that, from the beginning, they verbally agreed to an annual salary of one million francs. “It is a pending salary, owed by FIFA, under a verbal contract and paid in conditions of the most perfect legality. Nothing more! I acted, as in my entire life and career, with the greatest honesty,” Platini said in a statement sent to AFP. As a civil party, FIFA wants the money paid in 2011 to be returned so that it is “returned to the only purpose for which it was intended: football,” his lawyer Catherine Hohl-Chirazi told AFP. Ballon d’Or winner Joseph “Sepp” Blatter joined FIFA in 1975, became its secretary general in 1981 and president of world soccer’s governing body in 1998. He was forced to resign in 2015 and was banned by FIFA for eight years, later reduced to six, for ethical breaches for authorizing payment to Platini, allegedly made in his own interest and not that of FIFA. Platini is considered one of the best players in world football. He won the Ballon d’Or, considered the most prestigious individual award, three times, in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Only Lionel Messi (seven) and Cristiano Ronaldo (five) have won more Ballon d’Ors than Platini. Platini was president of UEFA from January 2007 to December 2015. Platini appealed against his initial eight-year suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced it to four years. Read More Related Sport News Here What do you think about this; Fallen soccer bosses Blatter and Platini face trial for fraud | Newslodge Nigeria News Let’s hear your opinion in the comment below!