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Why were Blatter and Platini cleared of fraud charges?

Former FIFA President Joseph Blatter and French footballing legend and ex-UEFA president Michel Platini were both cleared of corruption charges by a Swiss court on Friday.

Update:
Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrives to Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court to listen the verdict of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment, in the southern Switzerland city of Bellinzona, on July 8, 2022. - The Bellinzona court will hand down its verdict in the trial of former UEFA president Michel Platini and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Blatter and Platini are being tried over a two-million-Swiss-franc ($2 million) payment in 2011 to the former France captain, who by that time was in charge of European football's governing body UEFA. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
FABRICE COFFRINIAFP

Former FIFA president Joseph Blatter and French footballing legend and ex-UEFA president Michel Platini were both cleared of corruption charges by a Swiss court on Friday. Blatter, who headed FIFA for 17 years from 1998 to 2013, was cleared of fraud by the Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona.

Platini, a former France national team captain and manager, was also acquitted of fraud. The two, once among the most powerful figures in global soccer, had denied the charges against them. Prosecutors had accused Blatter, a Swiss who led world football’s governing body for almost two decades, and Platini, of unlawfully arranging for FIFA to pay the Frenchman two million Swiss francs ($2.06 million) in 2011. The corruption case forced Blatter to end his reign as FIFA president in disgrace and it wrecked Platini’s hopes of succeeding him after he was banned from football when the affair came to light.

Former UEFA president Michel Platini arrives at Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court to listen to the verdict of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
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Former UEFA president Michel Platini arrives at Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court to listen to the verdict of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)FABRICE COFFRINIAFP

Platini payment was part of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’

Blatter, 86, had said the two-million franc payment followed a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between the pair when he asked Platini to be his technical adviser in 1998. Platini, 67, worked as a consultant between 1998 and 2002 with an annual salary of 300,000 Swiss francs - the most FIFA could afford because of the financial troubles which the organisation was experiencing at the time, Blatter told the court. The rest of Platini’s one million per year salary was to be settled at a later date, he explained.

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Motives for the payment however were unclear, although the two men met in 2010 and discussed the upcoming elections for the FIFA presidency in 2011. When Blatter approved the payment, he was campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Platini, then president of European football association UEFA, was seen as having sway with European association members and therefore could influence the vote.

The payment emerged following a huge investigation launched by the US Department of Justice into bribery, fraud and money-laundering at FIFA in 2015, which triggered Blatter’s resignation. Both officials were banned in 2015 from soccer for eight years over the payment, although their bans were later reduced. Platini, who also lost his job as UEFA president as a result of the ban, argued that the affair was a deliberate plot to thwart his bid to become FIFA president in 2015. Platini’s former general secretary at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, entered the FIFA presidential race and won the election in 2016.

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