Blatter and Platini face suspended sentences of 20 months in prison

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press

GENEVA — Prosecutors in the fraud trial against ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter and ex-vice-president Michel Platini on Wednesday requested a suspended sentence of 20 months in prison.

Blatter and Platini, ex-captain of the French selection and ex-president of UEFA, could still be sentenced to five years in prison for financial embezzlement. Imprisonment is still considered unlikely at the end of their trial, which will last 11 days. The verdicts should be delivered on July 8.

Earlier Wednesday, prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand asked the three judges of Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona that Platini reimburse FIFA more than 2.2 million Swiss francs (C$2.85 million) in compensation.

Both men deny all accusations of fraud against them over a $2.6 million payment to Platini in 2011. At that time, Blatter was president and Platini was expected to replace him, possibly as of 2015.

Platini said in a statement that he was “serene and confident.”

“The charges brought today are groundless,” Platini said. The proceedings before the court prove that this criminal procedure is not necessary.”

Blatter and Platini testified last week and are expected to make a closing statement at the end of the trial, scheduled for June 22.

Their defense had not passed the test of the FIFA Ethics Committee, which banned them both from football for life. The FIFA Appeal Committee later dismissed their defence, as did the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Blatter claims that FIFA considered the payment according to the rules, while Platini argues that these allegations only surfaced in September 2015, in order to prevent him from running for the FIFA presidency.

The legal troubles of Blatter, 86, took a new turn on Wednesday, as the Associated Press learned that prosecutors in Zurich have filed criminal proceedings against him for a separate case, a complaint filed by FIFA in 2020.

Blatter and his longtime right-hand man, ex-FIFA vice-president Jerome Valcke, are now prime suspects in an investigation into alleged mismanagement in connection with the Football Museum project. Details of this new case were first reported by a Swiss financial news site.

Two criminal lawsuits at the federal level and another at the cantonal level have now been filed against Blatter and Valcke.

FIFA has asked Zurich prosecutors to look into renovations costing some $182 million to a building in downtown Zurich for a museum, a project dear to Blatter, which opened in 2016. The museum, which is taking loss after loss, is linked to the rental of office space and apartments on the same site, belonging to the insurance company Swiss Life.

Federal prosecutors, including Hildbrand, are also investigating FIFA’s $1.3 million loan to the Trinidad and Tobago national federation in 2010. The suspects in this case are Blatter, Valcke and the former director FIFA financier Markus Kattner, who testified in the Platini payment case on Tuesday.

The loan was later written off and turned into a gift to then-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, weeks before he ran in the Caribbean island general election. Warner became an elected government minister.

Valcke is also awaiting appeals over the use of a Qatar-owned villa in Sardinia, as well as in a World Cup broadcasting rights case.

Leave a Comment