The famous FIFA-corruption trial has finally come to an end this month, after 6 years of criminal proceedings. We’ll give you a quick summary of everything you need to know, as well as the verdict the Swiss court has given.
You wouldn’t expect an overly civil country like Switzerland to be involved in any fraudulent affairs – yet for the past 6 years it has been part of a high profile corruption trial: Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, 86, and France footballing legend Michel Platini, 66, have been accused of fraud and have now finally gone on trial in Switzerland.
It all started in 2015. Federal prosecutors in Switzerland announced their investigation into a 2 million Swiss francs payment that FIFA made to Platini in 2011. It was argued that the payment was made without legal basis, “damaging FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriching Platini.”
As a consequence, both men were then banned from football for eight years. However, their suspension was later reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Ever since the accusations first arose, Blatter and Platini have denied the charges against them. According to them, the money was part of Platinis salary for consultancy services, but for work carried out in 1998 and 2002. The payment was apparently agreed upon verbally between the two men and delayed because FIFA was having financial problems at the time. Swiss authorities dispute the legality of that claim and question the timing of the payment, since it fell outside the five-year limit since the work was carried out.
But what exactly were the two charged with? Former FIFA president Blatters charges are: fraud, mismanagement, misappropriation of funds and forgery of a document. Platini, on the other hand, is accused of participating in those offenses. If found guilty, both men could face up to five years in jail.
The corruption trial wasn’t off to a good start: It was delayed by a day after Blatter announced he was too ill to testify. The next day, however, the 86-year-old seemed to be in good spirits when he showed up at the courthouse in the Swiss city Bellinzona.
“I am confident because I have nothing to blame myself for,” Blatter said to several journalists. Seemingly just as confident, Platinis statement before the trial was: “I am convinced that justice will be fully and definitively done to me after so many years of wild accusations and slander.”
But The Swiss Attorney General’s Office was just as confident: It demanded a suspended prison sentence of one year and eight months for both Blatter and Platini. The latter is also to reimburse the amount received, as well as the social benefits paid on it.
The lawyers for Blatter and Platini, meanwhile, demanded that their clients be acquitted.
On top of that, Platini and his lawyers claimed the charge was all part of a plot that served to prevent him from becoming FIFA president back in 2015 and to clear the way for the current president, Gianni Infantino. His reasoning behind this was, that the 2011 payment only became of interest again when the FIFA president’s post was vacant in 2015.
The defense raised another question: How did the Federal Prosecutor’s Office find out about the payment in the first place? For it is strange that this particular payment was found when sifting through the immense amount of documents. At least for Platini’s lawyer, the case was clear: Infantino or at least his entourage had informed the Office of the Attorney General of the payment.
The FIFA trial in Bellinzona ends in a surprise for many: former FIFA president Joseph Blatter and former UEFA boss Michel Platini are acquitted of fraud charges. The acquittals were based on the legal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
Blatter will receive CHF 82,000 in compensation from the Confederation for his defense costs and CHF 20,000 in settlement, while Platini will be awarded CHF 143,000 in compensation, but renounced his settlement. FIFA, as the private plaintiff, will not be compensated.
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