‘It’s scandalous… FIFA made me and Sepp Blatter out to be cheaters, fraudsters, money launderers’: Michel Platini comes out fighting as he and the former FIFA president deny corruption in Switzerland
- Michel Platini has labelled allegations of corruption against him as ‘scandalous’
- Sepp Blatter and ex-UEFA President Platini are facing corruption charges
- Investigations into the pair triggered their downfall from top of world football
- Swiss 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 that Blatter ended his 17-year reign as FIFA president in disgrace
Former UEFA president Michel Platini has taken a vicious swipe at FIFA and accused them of making he and their former boss Sepp Blatter out to be ‘cheaters, fraudsters, and money launderers’.
Platini and Blatter are facing corruption charges in Switzerland, with prosecutors alleging that the pair unlawfully arranged a payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.6m) in 2011 from FIFA to Platini.
Both have always denied wrongdoing and Platini came out fighting in his testimony on Thursday as he looked to point the finger at the conduct of FIFA.
‘What FIFA did to the president of FIFA and me is scandalous, they made us out to be cheaters, fraudsters, money launderers,’ Platini said.
‘Just so that I wouldn’t become president.
‘It’s not easy when you’re known worldwide to be criticised worldwide, especially when you have children and grandchildren.
‘I hope there will be justice one day.’
The case meant Blatter ended his 17-year reign as FIFA president in disgrace in 2015 and torpedoed hopes of former France midfielder Platini of succeeding him.
Platini was forced to quit UEFA in 2016.
Michel Platini has come out fighting against FIFA as he stands accused of corruption, denouncing football’s governing body for painting him and Sepp Blatter out as ‘cheaters, fraudsters, money launderers’
Blatter is confident he and Platini will be cleared of any alleged wrongdoing at the Swiss trial
Blatter and Platini claim they had a verbal deal in 1998 for the Frenchman to be paid one million Swiss francs (£818,000) to serve as advisor to Blatter, should he be elected as FIFA president.
That defence first failed with judges at the FIFA ethics committee, which banned them from football, and later in separate appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Platini signed a contract with FIFA in August 1999 for 300,000 Swiss francs (£245,000) annually and backdated to January.
It is claimed Blatter said he would pay only the same as FIFA’s then-secretary general, and promised the balance later.
‘In the verbal contract we didn’t determine the date he would get it, it was a contract between men, and we started work immediately. I didn’t give him a precise time when he would get it,’ Blatter said.
‘When I was elected FIFA president, we had a bad balance… at the time I had no idea (when the payment would be made).
Platini, who had to leave his position as UEFA president in light of this case, believes FIFA’s behaviour has been ‘scandalous’ and he is determined to clear his name during this case
Platini looks on during a break as part of his trial on Wednesday over a suspected fraudulent payment at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court
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.
‘I simply had this man with me and he was worth this million but I didn’t know when and how he would get it.’
Platini, a long-time rival of Blatter but now a close ally, backed up that assessment.
‘I made a mistake,’ he said.
‘I was convinced the salary was 500,000 (Swiss francs) and I realised when the prosecutor showed me the contract.
‘But FIFA knew they cheated me.’
Both Blatter and Platini refused to answer questions from FIFA lawyer Catherine Hohl-Chirazi on day two of the trial on Thursday.
The 66-year-old Platini was asked by the prosecutor why he waited until 2011 to send FIFA an invoice for the money allegedly owed.
‘I trusted the president and I knew that one day or the other he would pay me. I wouldn’t get into a deal with the president without trusting him,’ Platini added.
‘It wasn’t vital for me that money. What was vital was the word of the president of FIFA.
‘I have principles. I’m not going to ask for money from someone who owes me. Just that, one day, I knew that FIFA had given two big payments to employees who left and at that point I told myself it would be good that they remember they owe me money.’
Despite the huge media scrutiny on the both, speaking outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Platini struck a confident tone.
‘I am convinced that justice will be fully and definitively done to me after so many years of wild accusations and slander,’ he said.
‘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, too, was in confident mood, despite health problems leaving him unable to provide testimony on Wednesday.
‘I am absolutely confident, the sun is shining, and I’m in a good mood,’ he told journalists, accompanied by his daughter Corinne and his lawyer.
‘I know I have not done anything against the law. My life was football, for 45 years with FIFA. My life is football.’
Blatter’s health problems have provided a sub-plot to this week’s proceedings in the Swiss court.
The former head of FIFA told judges in a voice barely louder than a whisper on Wednesday: ‘I’m not well. I have these problems that come and go.
‘I can’t breathe well. I don’t feel capable at the moment of responding to an interrogation.’
The judges allowed him to delay his testimony to Thursday, a day later than planned. ‘I hope that I’ll feel better tomorrow,’ Blatter said, before returning to the stand 24 hours later to provide his account.
The on-going court case is one of 25 investigations by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) into corruption in football, with some 12 still pending.
Pictured: Platini is surrounded by media representatives as he arrives to court in Switzerland
Swiss prosecutors accuse the pair (pictured in 2015), once among the game’s most powerful figures, of unlawfully arranging a payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.6m) in 2011
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 of ‘fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document’. Along with Platini, he has strenuously denied this.
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.’
The trial is set to last 11 days and the three federal judges hearing the case are scheduled to deliver their verdict on July 8.
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