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Explained: How tainted football administrators Blatter and Platini escaped criminal charges

The investigations had been going on since 2015 — and after six years, the lack of sufficient proof has allowed both men to escape any criminal charges.

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts as he speaks to the media after a trial at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland July 8, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Influential administrator Sepp Blatter and French legend Michel Platini, removed from positions they held in football as chiefs of FIFA and UEFA over allegations that they exchanged fraudulent payments while in power, have been given a clean chit.

The investigations had been going on since 2015 — and after six years, the lack of sufficient proof has allowed both men to escape any criminal charges. Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court delivered the verdict on Friday.

When he arrived at the court on Friday, Blatter said that while he was not innocent in life, he was innocent when it came to the content of this case.

Where did this saga begin?

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To be exact, 1998. Blatter, who had joined FIFA in 1975, rose through its ranks and became president in 1998. At the time, Blatter had asked Platini to become his adviser. Platini asked for a million Swiss francs as payment per year. But Blatter told Platini that FIFA could not afford that sum at the time, so they settled on 300,000 Swiss francs a year. They also made a “gentleman’s agreement” that the outstanding payment of 700,000 Swiss francs would be made later when FIFA is in a financially sound position.

“I knew when we started with Michel Platini that is not the total, and we would look at it later,” Blatter had told the court during the trial. “It was an agreement between two sportsmen. I found nothing wrong with that.” Platini corroborated Blatter’s statement and said that he trusted the former FIFA president to pay him one day.

Platini stayed in his role with FIFA from 1998 to 2002.

So what happened after that?

In 2010, Platini began to pursue the rest of his money under the alleged gentleman’s agreement from Blatter, who had continued in his position as FIFA chief. According to the BBC, Platini had heard that FIFA had “substantially compensated” two former employees. In 2011, Platini sent FIFA an invoice for the period — and the money was paid to him 10 days later on the approval of Blatter.

It is important to note two facts at this point. Firstly, the money that was sent to Platini was 2 million Swiss francs. And secondly, that Platini at this point had become the chief of UEFA.

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Michel Platini speaks to the press in front of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, after the verdict was announced. (Ti-Press/Alessandro Crinari/Keystone via AP)

Once news of the invoice and its recipient came to light, both Blatter and Platini were accused of fraud and forgery by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General in September 2015. Earlier in May 2015, seven FIFA officials were arrested on charges of wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.

A few days later, in the midst of multiple allegations and arrests, Blatter won his fifth term as president of FIFA. Side-by-side, investigations were launched on how the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups were allocated.

On June 2, Blatter resigned from his post but said that he would remain in charge until a special congress was held to designate a new leader for football’s world body. Platini promptly put his name up for the post, but that attempt at power was derailed in the span of a few months as their financial agreements and payments came to light.

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FIFA suspended both for 90 days initially, following which its ethics committee banned them from all football related activity for eight years.

Both suspensions were reduced to six years upon appeal. Blatter and Platini went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). At CAS, Platini’s six year ban was brought down to four while Blatter’s ban was upheld.

So why did the court dismiss the case?

In its judgment, the court rejected the prosecution’s request for suspended prison sentences, saying there simply wasn’t enough proof to charge Blatter and Platini.

“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.”

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The court also said that since there was no absolute certainty of the facts, they had to side with the accused.

What have Platini and Blatter said?

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While Blatter claimed his innocence, Platini said that he “won a first game”.

“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,” he said. “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.”

First published on: 08-07-2022 at 09:30:32 pm
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