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Blatter and Platini facing corruption trial in Switzerland

Blatter and Platini facing corruption trial in Switzerland

BELLINZONE, Switzerland, June 7 (Reuters) – Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and former UEFA President Michel Platini are due to appear in a Swiss court on Wednesday on corruption charges that prompted their fall from the pinnacle of world football.

Swiss prosecutors accuse the pair, once among the game’s most powerful figures, of illegally arranging a 2011 payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.08 million) from FIFA to Platini.

The affair meant Blatter ended his 17-year reign as disgraced FIFA president and torpedoed former France midfielder Platini’s hopes of succeeding him.

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This is one of 25 investigations by the Swiss Public Prosecutor’s Office into corruption in football, 12 of which are still ongoing.

After a six-year investigation, the MPC charged Blatter, 86, with “fraud, rather than embezzlement, rather than criminal mismanagement as well as falsification of a document”.

Platini, 66, is charged with fraud, embezzlement, participation in criminal mismanagement as an accomplice and forgery.

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

Three judges from the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona will hear the case in the trial, which will run until June 22. The verdict is expected on July 8. If convicted, Platini and Blatter face up to five years in prison.

“This case goes back to an event in 2011. It was an administrative matter, a salary payment that was due,” Blatter said. “The matter has been properly declared as a salary payment, accounted for accordingly and approved by all relevant FIFA bodies.”

Platini said: “I approach this hearing with serenity and confidence. I am confident that justice will be fully and finally served to me after so many years of savage accusations and slander. We will prove in court that I acted with the utmost honesty, that the payment of the remaining salary was owed to me by FIFA and is perfectly legal.”

The FIFA 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 as 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 football association UEFA, was seen as influencing European members who could sway the vote.

The MPC said its investigation revealed that Platini had worked as a consultant between 1998 and 2002 and that an annual remuneration of 300,000 Swiss francs had been contractually agreed.

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

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

The three-time European Footballer of the Year had been the favorite to replace Blatter after the Swiss administrator left following the massive corruption scandal that engulfed FIFA in 2015.

Instead, Platini’s former general secretary at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, entered the FIFA race and won the election in 2016.

($1 = 0.9624 Swiss francs)

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Reporting by John Revill; edited by Clare Fallon

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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