Lausanne (AFP) – Disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter and former UEFA chief Michel Platini have been indicted in Switzerland for offences including “fraud”, the Swiss Attorney General announced Tuesday.
“Both are accused of unlawfully arranging a payment of 2 million Swiss Francs from FIFA to Michel Platini,” said the statement from the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG).
It said both men could face charges of “misappropriation”, “criminal mismanagement” and “forgery of a document”.
Platini, 66, is also accused of “fraud”, participating in both “misappropriation” and “criminal mismanagement” as well as “forgery of a document”.
Both men told AFP they expected the court to clear them.
The case stems from the 2011 payment to Platini that earned both men bans from football in 2015.
The Swiss statement said the payment was for consultancy work done by Platini for then FIFA president Blatter, now 85, between 1999 and 2002.
It said there was a written contract for annual compensation of 300,000 Swiss Francs (187,400 euros at the time) which “was invoiced by Platini on each occasion and paid in full by FIFA.”
More than eight years later, the statement said: “Platini demanded a payment in the amount of CHF 2 million. With Blatter’s involvement, FIFA made a payment to Platini in said amount at the beginning of 2011. The evidence gathered by the OAG has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis. This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini.”
The OAG said it will present its findings to the Federal Criminal Court, in Bellinzona, which will decide whether to try the two former executives.
Simple fraud is punishable by five years in prison “or a fine” under Swiss law.
– ‘Unfounded and unfair charges’ –
“I am looking forward to the trial before the Federal Criminal Court with optimism,” Blatter wrote in an email to AFP on Tuesday. “I hope that this story will come to an end and that all the facts will be cleared up.”
Hospitalised at the beginning of the year, the 85-year-old is expected to be allowed to spend a limited amount of time in court.
Platini said in a WhatsApp message to AFP he was “perfectly confident and serene about the outcome of this procedure”.
He added he deplored “the relentlessness” of the prosecution and “fully disputes these unfounded and unfair charges”.
The two men have insisted all along that they had orally agreed annual compensation of one million Swiss francs, which was beyond FIFA’s finances at the time and they settled the balance in 2011.
Blatter on Tuesday dismissed the suggestion that this was an under-the-counter payment, saying FIFA paid the correct pension contributions and Platini had “paid taxes on this amount at his place of residence in Switzerland.”
Platini had suggested he might run against Blatter for the FIFA presidency in the 2011 election but in the end did not stand. Blatter was re-elected unopposed.
The hearing should also shed light on the circumstances in which this case broke in September 2015, four years after the payment.
The revelation followed the corruption arrests, known as FIFAgate, on the eve of Blatter’s re-election for a fourth term in May. A few days later, he announced he would resign triggering a battle to succeed him.
Platini was a favourite but after he was banned, his UEFA deputy Gianni Infantino won the job.
The two defendants have long suspected Infantino, or his entourage, alerted the prosecutor’s office to the four-year-old transaction.
“To this day, I still wonder who brought the events of 2011 to the attention of the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office,” Blatter wrote on Tuesday.
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