Home Sports Joseph Blatter and Michel Platini reiterate their innocence in court testimony

Joseph Blatter and Michel Platini reiterate their innocence in court testimony

Joseph Blatter and Michel Platini reiterate their innocence in court testimony

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini emphatically reiterated their innocence when the two former soccer officials were questioned during the second day of a trial on charges of defrauding FIFA.

Blatter was due to testify on the first day on Wednesday, but the former FIFA president complained of chest pains and asked to respond the following morning.

“I feel much better, thank you,” the 86-year-old Swiss said at the start of Thursday’s session at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzon.

Blatter had been FIFA president for 17 years when he resigned in June 2015 over a corruption scandal. A few months later, Swiss federal prosecutors revealed an investigation into FIFA’s $2 million payment to Platini four years earlier.

The scandal also derailed Platini’s campaign to replace his previous mentor at FIFA and led to his removal as president of UEFA, European soccer’s governing body.

Both deny any wrongdoing and have also questioned how the controversial payment came to light, with unsubstantiated claims prosecutors met with a whistleblower on a park bench.

This was denied by the last witness on Thursday, former federal prosecutor Olivier Thormann.

Blatter and Platini say they reached a verbal agreement in 1998 for the money. That defense failed before the FIFA ethics committee judges, who banned them from the sport, and then appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Platini’s contract with FIFA, signed in August 1999, called for a payment of 300,000 Swiss francs ($312,000) a year retroactive to January. It is claimed that Blatter promised to pay him the same as the then secretary general, and promised to pay him later.

“In the word agreement we did not determine the date to receive it, it was a contract between gentlemen, and we started immediately. I didn’t give him a precise date to give it to him,” Blatter said.

“When he was elected FIFA president, the accounts were wrong… At that time I had no idea (when the payment would be made),” he said. Nothing more than I had this collaborator with me and I had to pay him this million, but he did not know when and how he would receive it”.

Platini endorsed what Blatter said in his testimony.

The ex-star assured that he should have received a higher pay, but he miscalculated the discrepancy in the amount he was promised and his salary during his four years as an advisor.

“I made a mistake,” Platini said. “I was convinced that the salary was $500,000 and I realized it when the prosecutor showed me the contract. But FIFA knew they cheated me.”

Platini was asked to explain why it was not until 2011 that he sent an invoice to FIFA with the money allegedly owed. The bill was not long in coming after FIFA disbursed a seven-figure severance package to Jerome Champagne, a former French diplomat who was sacked as a Blatter aide.

"I trusted the president and I knew that one day he would pay me. I did not agree to an agreement with the president without trusting him,” Platino said. “Money was not something vital to me. What was vital was the word of the FIFA president.”

The trial is due to take 11 days and the three federal judges in charge of the case are due to issue a verdict on July 8. Blatter and Platini each face five years in prison, but will most likely receive suspended sentences.

“I was shocked (when we were first asked) and that shock has lasted seven years. Here it goes,” Blatter said. “I have been grounded for seven years. It seems like an eternity.”

“That is why I am happy to be in court now, to find out the truth about what happened. I am happy to be here and that this will finally be over,” she added.

Blatter and Platini declined to answer questions from FIFA lawyer Catherine Hohl-Chirazi.

“What FIFA did to the FIFA president and to me is scandalous. They turned us into cheats, swindlers, money launderers,” Platini said. “All so that he could not be the president.”

The criminal process against Blatter began in September 2015 and it was not until years later, after Thormann left the prosecution, that Platini was investigated.

Platini’s lawyer, Dominic Nellen, tried to show in court that the prosecution colluded with football officials, allowing Gianni Infantino to become FIFA president in 2016. The FIFA ethics committee’s investigation into the payment of 2 million led to the punishment of Platini, with which he could not present his candidacy in the elections to replace Blatter.

However, Thormann said that information about Platini’s payment was received in May 2015 from Markus Kattner, then FIFA’s chief financial officer. Swiss authorities had seized documents and other information from FIFA headquarters in Zurich as part of a broader investigation and amid US federal agents’ probe into soccer corruption.

The documents detailed payments from FIFA to all members of its executive committee, including Platini.

“We received an alert and opened a dossier,” Thormann told the court, dismissing any notion of a conspiracy.

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