Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini acquitted of corruption charges

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini photographed on May 29, 2015. The two were once among the most powerful personalities in world football.

Michael Bueholzer | AFP | Getty Images

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and former UEFA President Michel Platini were acquitted of corruption charges by a Swiss court on Friday.

Blatter, who headed FIFA for 17 years, was acquitted of fraud by the Federal Criminal Court in the south 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 world football, had denied the allegations against them.

Prosecutors had accused Blatter, a Swiss who headed FIFA for 17 years, and Platini of unlawfully inducing FIFA to pay the Frenchman two million Swiss francs (£1.7million) in 2011.

The case meant Blatter ended his tenure as FIFA president in disgrace and it dashed Platini’s hopes of his successor after he was banned from football when the affair came to light.

Blatter had said the payment followed a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the two when he asked Platini to become his technical adviser in 1998.

Platini worked as a consultant between 1998 and 2002 with an annual salary of 300,000 Swiss francs (£257,000) – the highest amount FIFA could afford because the organization was struggling with money at the time, Blatter had told the court.

The remainder of Platini’s salary of one million a year (£857,000) was to be settled at a later date, Blatter said.

The motives for the payment were unclear, although the two men met in 2010 and discussed the upcoming 2011 FIFA presidential election.

When Blatter approved the payment, he ran for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Platini, then-President of UEFA, was considered influential among European members who could influence the vote.

The payment came after a major investigation by the US Department of Justice into bribery, fraud and money laundering at FIFA in 2015, which prompted Blatter’s resignation.

Both officials were banned from football for eight years over the payment in 2015, although their bans were later reduced.

Platini, who also lost his job as UEFA president after the ban, said the affair was a deliberate attempt to thwart his bid to become FIFA president in 2015.

Platini’s former general secretary at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, competed in the FIFA race and won the 2016 election.

After the verdict, Platini said: “I would like to express to all my loved ones my joy that after seven years of lies and manipulation, justice has finally been achieved.”

He added: “My fight is a fight against injustice. I won a first game.” Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini acquitted of corruption charges

Drew Weisholtz

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