FIFA: Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini arrive in Swiss court for first day of fraud trial

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s court testimony is stopped after he suffers chest pains and has ‘trouble breathing’ on first day of explosive fraud trial over £1.6million payment to ex-UEFA chief Michel Platini

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and ex-UEFA President Michel Platini are facing corruption charges Investigations into the powerful pair triggered their downfall from the summit of global footballSwiss prosecutors accuse them of of unlawfully arranging a payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.6 million) in 2011 from FIFA to Platini. The case meant Blatter ended his 17-year reign as FIFA president in disgraceMeanwhile, Platini’s hopes of succeeding him as president were left in tatters and quite UEFA in 2016The pair, once close associates now bitter enemies, have both denied the charges brought against them

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The trial of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and French footballing legend Michel Platini over alleged corrupt payments was halted today when Blatter said he was suffering from chest pains and was having rouble breathing.

Blatter and Platini appeared at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court where they are facing corruption charges which triggered their downfall from the summit of global football.

The were both in a confident mood this morning arriving separately to the court in Bellinzona, smiling for the cameras and speaking to a large gathering of reporters and photographers.

But Blatter, who has been suffering from health issues and looked frail as he made his way through the crowd towards the courthouse, told judges inside he was unable to address the court due to chest pains.

‘The pain will come back and I am having difficulty breathing,’ the 85-year-old told the court in a whisper. The judges allowed him to make his testimony on Thursday, a day later than planned.

Earlier, lawyers for Blatter and Platini failed to shift the trial to a local court or dismiss FIFA’s civil claim against Blatter and Platter to reclaim the two million francs.

‘This case is being heard in the wrong stadium,’ Platini’s lawyer Dominic Nellen told the court, saying federal prosecutions should be reserved for large, international cases.

The judges dismissed the argument, and also allowed FIFA to remain involved.

‘It is obvious that FIFA has been damaged,’ said its lawyer Catherine Hohl-Chirazi. ‘Two million francs was stolen.’

Once among the game’s most powerful figures, Blatter and Platini are being tried over a two million Swiss franc (£1.6 million) payment in 2011 to Platini, who was then in charge of European football’s governing body UEFA.

Swiss prosecutors accuse them of having, to the detriment of FIFA, illegally obtained the payment, plus social security contributions of 229,126 francs, in favour of Platini.

The former French football great ‘submitted to FIFA in 2011 an allegedly fictitious invoice for a (alleged) debt still existing for his activity as an adviser for FIFA in the years 1998 to 2002,’ according to the court.

The case meant Blatter ended his 17-year reign as FIFA president in disgrace in 2015 and torpedoed hopes by former France midfielder Platini of succeeding him. Platini was forced to quit UEFA in 2016.

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter (pictured arriving to a Swiss court on Wednesday) and ex-UEFA President Michel Platini are due to appear in a Swiss court on Wednesday facing corruption charges which triggered their downfall from the summit of global football

Former UEFA President Michel Platini arrives in front of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court (Bundesstrafgericht) in Bellinzona, Switzerland June 8, 2022

Sepp Blatter, centre, accompanied by his daughter Corinne Blatter, left, and his lawyer Lorenz Erni, right, arrives at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, June 8

Platini (centre) arrives to Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court for the start of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment on June 8, 2022

Platini looks on during a break as part of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court

Blatter arrived accompanied by his daughter Corinne and his lawyer.

‘I am absolutely confident, the sun is shining.. and I’m in a good mood,’ Blatter told journalists before the hearing. ‘I know I have not done anything against the law. My life was football, for 45 years with FIFA. My life is football.’

Platini also said he was confident, and joked he would have to take course in German so he could follow the proceedings.

‘I am convinced that justice will be fully and definitively done to me after so many years of wild accusations and slander,’ he said in statement before the trial began. ‘We will prove in court that I acted with the utmost honesty, that the payment of the remaining salary was due to me by FIFA and is perfectly legal.’  

Blatter and Platini: Close allies who became bitter enemies

Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter joined FIFA in 1975, became its general secretary in 1981 and the president of world football’s governing body in 1998.

Despite a controversial reign at the top of FIFA, Blatter continued to be re-elected as the president of the world football body. He remained in the role for 17 years. 

He was forced to stand down in 2015 and was banned by FIFA for eight years, later reduced to six, over ethics breaches for authorising the payment to Platini, allegedly made in his own interests rather than FIFA’s.

Platini is regarded among world football’s greatest-ever players. 

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 Ballons d’Or than Platini.

He captained France to victory in the 1984 European Championship, and in 1985 won the European Cup with Italian club Juventus.

He coached the French national team for a stint, before heading up the committee organising the 1998 World Cup, which was hosted in France. 

Platini was UEFA’s president from January 2007 to December 2015.

Platini and retired Swiss football administrator Blatter were banned from the sport at the very moment when Platini seemed ideally-placed to succeed Blatter at the helm of world football’s governing body.

The two allies became rivals as Platini grew impatient to take over, while Blatter’s tenure was brought to a swift end by a separate 2015 FIFA corruption scandal investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Platini appealed against his initial eight-year suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced it to four years.

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It is one of 25 investigations by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) into corruption in football, with some 12 still pending. The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also investigated corruption in the game.

Following a mammoth six-year investigation that began in 2015, the OAG accused Blatter, 86, of ‘fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document’.

Platini, 66, is accused of fraud, misappropriation, participating in criminal mismanagement as an accomplice, and forgery of a document.

Blatter and Platini, who were once close associates but are now bitter enemies, have both denied wrongdoing. They say they had a verbal agreement over the payment, which related to consultancy work by Platini between 1998 and 2002.

The pair were banned from the sport at the very moment when Platini seemed ideally-placed to succeed Blatter at the helm of world football’s governing body.

The two allies became rivals as Platini grew impatient to take over, while Blatter’s tenure was brought to a swift end by a separate 2015 FIFA corruption scandal investigated by the FBI.

In the Bellinzona trial, the defence and the prosecution agree on one point: Platini was employed as an adviser to Blatter between 1998 and 2002. They signed a contract in 1999 for an annual remuneration of 300,000 francs.

‘The compensation agreed in accordance with this contract was invoiced by Platini on each occasion and paid in full by FIFA,’ said the OAG.

However, more than eight years after the end of his advisory role, the former France captain ‘demanded a payment in the amount of two million francs’, the OAG alleged.

‘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 federal prosecution alleges.

The men insist that they had, from the outset, orally agreed to an annual salary of one million francs. 

Three judges will hear the case in the trial which runs until June 22. A verdict is due on July 8. If convicted, Platini and Blatter face up to five years in jail. 

The judges will have to go through the friendship formed between the defendants, their growing rivalry and then their joint ejection from world football – but also distinguish that from the alleged crimes at the heart of the court case. 

Sepp Blatter, second left, accompanied by his daughter Corinne Blatter, left, and his lawyer Lorenz Erni, second right, arrive at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Pictured: Platini is surrounded by media representatives as he arrives to court in Switzerland

Pictured: Sepp Blatter is mobbed by the media as he arrives to court in Switzerland

Michel Platini (centre), and his lawyers arrive at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona

Pictured: Blatter speaks to the media as he leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court after the first day of his trial

Platini is surrounded by media representatives as he leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, after the first day of his trial

‘This case goes back to an event in 2011. It is an administrative matter, a salary payment that was owed,’ said Blatter. ‘The matter was correctly declared as a salary payment, accounted for accordingly and approved by all the relevant bodies of FIFA.’

Platini said: ‘I approach this hearing with serenity and confidence. I am convinced that justice will be fully and definitively done to me after so many years of wild accusations and slander. 

‘We will prove in court that I acted with the utmost honesty, that the payment of the remaining salary was due to me by FIFA and is perfectly legal.’

In a statement to AFP news agency, Platini said:  ‘It is outstanding salary, owed by FIFA, under oral contract and paid under conditions of the most perfect legality. Nothing else! I acted, as in all my life and career, with the utmost honesty.’ 

Swiss prosecutors accuse the pair (pictured together in 2015), once among the game’s most powerful figures, of unlawfully arranging a payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.6 million) in 2011 from FIFA to Platini

Comedian Simon Brodkin (not pictured) throws dollar bills at FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during a press conference at the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters on July 20, 2015 in Zurich

Following a mammoth six-year investigation that began in 2015, the OAG accused Blatter (pictured in 2010 being handed the World Cup trophy), 86, of ‘fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document’

Platini (pictured celebrating a goal in 1984), 66, is accused of fraud, misappropriation, participating in criminal mismanagement as an accomplice, and forgery of a document

UEFA President, Michel Platini (right) presents the UEFA Champions League Cup to Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (left) during a ‘handover’ ceremony at the Guildhall in London, 2011

FIFA’s Ethics Committee banned Blatter and Platini from football in 2015, initially for eight years, although this was later reduced.

The committee said the transaction, made when Blatter was seeking re-election, lacked transparency and presented a conflict of interest. When Blatter approved the payment, he was campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. 

Platini, as president of European soccer association UEFA, was seen as having sway with European members who could influence the vote.

The OAG said its investigation revealed that Platini worked as a consultant between 1998-2002 and that an annual compensation of 300,000 Swiss francs was contractually agreed.

Platini’s invoice had been paid in full but the former France international later demanded further salary payments of two million francs, it said.

Platini, who captained France to victory in the 1984 European Championships, was forced to quit UEFA in 2016 after losing his appeal against his ban. He also lost his appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.

The three-time European footballer of the year had been favourite to replace Blatter after the Swiss administrator quit in the wake of the huge corruption scandal which engulfed FIFA in 2015. Instead, Platini’s former general secretary at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, entered the FIFA race and won the election in 2016. 

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