One year and eight months suspended prison sentence against Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter. The Swiss public prosecutor’s office has announced its requisitions against the two men, accused of having defrauded FIFA, the world football body, by obtaining an unjustified payment.
Implacable on the “deception” lent to the defendants, the prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand nevertheless refrained from demanding a firm sentence. In principle, the former leaders – fixed on their fate on July 8 – incur five years of imprisonment.
For five hours, before the Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona (South-East), the prosecutor tried to untangle the case with drawers which broke the career of the former allies in 2015 when Platini, then president of the UEFA, seemed ideally placed to succeed Blatter at the head of FIFA.
“Only their behavior under criminal law counts,” Mr. Hildbrand recalled from the outset. Leaving any political dimension out of the picture, he focused on the 2 million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros) granted in 2011 by FIFA to Michel Platini, with the endorsement of Sepp Blatter. It does not matter therefore that this file only resurfaced in 2015 and propelled to the head of world football the unexpected Gianni Infantino, Michel Platini’s right arm at UEFA, targeted since 2020 by a separate procedure for three secret meetings with the floor.
Blatter the “Chameleon”
Heard last Thursday by the court, the 66-year-old Frenchman and the 86-year-old Swiss claim to have “orally” decided that Platini would receive 1 million Swiss francs a year to advise Blatter between 1998 and 2002, just after having helped him to access at the head of FIFA.
But this agreement concluded without witnesses, contrary to “commercial practices” and never provisioned in the organization’s accounts, was invented after the fact to justify the invoice presented in 2011 by the triple Ballon d’Or, prosecutor Thomas replied on Wednesday. Hildbrand.
For him, Platini’s work was fully covered by an August 1999 contract providing for 300,000 Swiss francs a year, where the two men claim to have agreed to pay “the rest later”, when finances of FIFA would allow it. Improbable, swept the magistrate: even if the body had paid 1 million Swiss francs to Platini in 1999, it would still have had “more than 21 million francs in cash”, reserves rising to 327 million in 2002.
But Sepp Blatter, who joined FIFA in 1975, “had perfect knowledge” of his solvency. “When a chameleon feels threatened, it changes color: Blatter does the same thing,” said Thomas Hildbrand, for whom “there is no reason why FIFA” should have withheld payment.
The Shadow of Corruption
Further inconsistency in the eyes of the prosecution, Platini ended up claiming at the beginning of 2011 500,000 annual francs for this period, rather than 700,000, explaining afterwards that he had never checked the sum which had been initially paid to him.
“Was it only at the time of the FIFA bill that he would have lost his mathematical abilities? pretended to wonder the magistrate, recalling that the Frenchman had “passed a calculation test without any problem” during his interrogation.
Thomas Hildbrand also pointed out that Jerome Valcke, secretary general of FIFA in 2011, told investigators that Platini had first asked for 4 million francs, before establishing a bill half as high. “If you go from 4 to 2, it means that there has been negotiation, agreement between the parties,” said the magistrate, making this sum the counterpart of “a personal service” from Platini to Blatter. But which one, when no motive is in the indictment?
Carefully, the prosecutor referred to the support of the Frenchman and the UEFA executive committee for Blatter’s re-election to a fourth term at the end of May 2011. “The question of whether this payment is in connection with the election must remain open. , in the absence of convincing evidence,” admitted Thomas Hildbrand, leaving the shadow of corruption hanging over the court.
Started last Wednesday, the trial should continue until June 22 with the pleadings of FIFA, civil party, then of the defense.