Formerly in charge of both world and European football, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were exonerated on Friday following a scandal that rocked the industry and ended their reigns as leaders.
Following a thorough investigation that began in 2015 and lasted six years, Bellinzona, a city in southern Switzerland, and Bellinzona’s Federal Criminal Court found the two not guilty after a trial.
Sepp Blatter, 86, the former president of FIFA, and Michel Platini, 67, remained silent as the clerk read out the verdict, which denied the prosecution’s plea for a year and eight-month suspended prison sentence.
Finally, a fair court has determined that no crime was committed in this case. As a result, my client is entirely exonerated and relieved,” said Dominic Nellen, Platini’s attorney.
Platini, a former French football legend, made a brief speech in which he claimed to have “won the first round” and made reference to purported political and judicial interference with an eye toward deposing him.
“There are offenders in this case who did not show up for the trial. Let them rely on me; we’ll come across each other, he added.
From 1998 through 2002, Platini worked for Blatter as an advisor.
Blatter testified in court that FIFA had a poor reputation when he assumed the position of president in 1998 and that he believed a former star player could help.
He sought Platini’s guidance, which included going on political missions, changing the international calendar, and providing financial support to the national federations.
They agreed to a contract in 1999 for a $300,000 Swiss franc annual salary, which FIFA fully honored.
However, the two were put on trial in relation to a $2.05 million payment made to Michel Platini in 2011 when he was in control of UEFA, the body that governs European football.
Former FIFA president Blatter said in court that the two had reached a “gentleman’s agreement” for Platini to receive a salary of one million Swiss francs annually.
Blatter, who was then the president of FIFA, reportedly agreed to Platini’s joking request for a million dollars without specifying the currency, with the understanding that some of the money would be paid “later” and not as part of the agreement they both signed.
Blatter stated that the balance will be settled in an oral agreement reached without witnesses when FIFA’s precarious finances permitted it.
Platini was charged with submitting a purportedly fraudulent invoice to FIFA in 2011 for a debt that was supposedly still owed for his consulting work.
Both were charged with fraud and document falsification. Platini was accused of taking part in the alleged theft and criminal mismanagement committed by Blatter.
The innocence of Blatter and Platini was upheld throughout their June 8–22 trial.
The fraud, however, was not “proven with a likelihood verging on certainty,” according to the court, who therefore used the common rule of criminal law that “the doubt must benefit the accused.”
The Swiss Attorney General’s Office brought the indictment forward.
The corporate headquarters of FIFA and UEFA are both in Switzerland, in Zurich and Nyon, respectively.
Platini and Blatter were both suspended from the game at the exact time when Platini appeared to be the ideal choice to follow Blatter as the head of the organization that governs world football.
As Platini grew impatient to take over, the two allies turned competitive, and Blatter’s presidency was abruptly ended by a separate FIFA corruption case in 2015 that was being looked into by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Joseph “Sepp” Blatter joined FIFA in 1975, rose to the position of general secretary in 1981, and was elected president of FIFA in 1998.
He was ordered to resign in 2015 and was later given a six-year suspension by FIFA for ethics violations related to his approval of the payment to Platini, which was reportedly done in his own interests rather than FIFA’s.
Platini is recognized as one of the all-time great players in world football. Three times, in 1983, 1984, and 1985, he received the Ballon d’Or, the highest individual honor.
UEFA’s president from January 2007 to December 2015 was Michel Platini.
His initial eight-year suspension was reduced to four years when he filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.