Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini lost their positions as the most powerful men in world soccer a long time ago. Now they are back in the docks of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona facing charges of corruption.
The 86-year-old Blatter, the former president of FIFA, and 66-year-old Platini the former head of European football’s governing body, UEFA, are accused of offenses related to the suspicious payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million, €1.9 million).
Both have repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the past over the incident, for which Swiss prosecutors indicted them in November.
Why was the trial delayed?
The trial was meant to get underway on Wednesday with Blatter in good spirits before talks began. “I’m in a good mood with the beautiful sun that is here. I am confident because I have nothing to blame myself for. It takes two weeks, so I must be in a good mood on the first day.”
However, just hours later and the questioning of the former FIFA president was delayed due to his ill health. “I am not well. I have a complaint that comes back, then I can’t breathe properly either,” Blatter told the court. “I don’t see myself able to answer.”
According to Blatter’s lawyer Lorenz Erni, his client has chest pains and breathing difficulties.
What are Blatter and Platini accused of?
Blatter stands accused of fraud, criminal mismanagement, and forgery of a document. Meanwhile, Platini faces indictments of participating in mismanagement as an accomplice as well as fraud and forgery of a document.
The charges were brought following a six-year investigation by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and focuses on a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million/€1.9 million) ratified by Blatter to Platini in 2011.
Although a contract of 300,000 Swiss francs per year had been agreed between the pair for Platini’s work as a consultant to FIFA between 1998-2002, the payment nine years later raised flags.
“The evidence gathered by the OAG has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis,” prosecutors said in a statement when the charges were laid in November.
“This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini.”
What do the accused say?
Both men have vehemently denied the charges, claiming that a verbal agreement made years prior simply meant the 2011 payment was back paid.
In defense of his client, lawyer Dominic Nellen told the German Press Agency that it can be “detailed that the trial of Mr. Platini was politically motivated with the aim of preventing him from becoming FIFA president.”
Blatter offered an equally defiant stance when he last spoke of the charges, saying: “I hope that this story will come to an end and that all the facts will be dealt with cleanly.”
When will a verdict be given?
The trial is scheduled to last for 11 days and reach its conclusion on July 22 as the proceedings will run from 09:00-13:00 (CEST) daily.
Shortened days were arranged in light of Blatter’s health, with the 86-year-old having been temporarily placed in an artificial coma at the beginning of 2021 following an operation.
A verdict in the case will be issued on July 8, where a prison sentence of up to five years could be handed down in the event of a conviction.
km/jt (dpa, AP, Reuters)
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