GENEVA (AP)Former FIFA officials Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini will go on trial for fraud and other offenses in June, Switzerland’s federal criminal court said Tuesday.
The court set the trial to be heard before a panel of three judges on 11 days from June 8-22. Verdicts could be announced several weeks later by the court in Bellinzona.
The trial will begin more than 6 1/2 years after criminal proceedings were opened, first against Blatter, for a 2011 payment of 2 million Swiss francs (then $2 million) he authorized FIFA to make to Platini.
Platini sent a written request to FIFA in January 2011 to be paid backdated additional salary for working as a presidential adviser in Blatter’s first term, from 1998-2002.
The allegations revealed by Swiss federal prosecutors in September 2015 removed Blatter early from the FIFA presidency and ultimately ended Platini’s campaign to succeed him. Platini was also ousted as UEFA president after he was banned from soccer because of the payment.
Blatter has been charged with fraud, mismanagement, misappropriation of FIFA funds and forgery of a document. Platini has been charged with fraud, misappropriation, forgery and as an accomplice to Blatter’s alleged mismanagement.
Fraud and forgery charges can be punished in Switzerland with jail sentences of up to five years.
Blatter, who turned 86 last month, and Platini, who turns 67 on the scheduled 10th day of the trial in June, have denied wrongdoing. They have cited a verbal agreement more than 20 years ago for the money to be paid eventually.
When Blatter cleared the FIFA payment in 2011 he was preparing to campaign for re-election in a contest against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, where Platini’s influence with European voters was seen as a key factor.
”The evidence gathered by the (attorney general’s office) has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis,” federal prosecutors said last year when the two men were indicted.
FIFA also paid the former France great almost 230,000 Swiss francs in social insurance, the court said Tuesday.
Blatter was under suspicion for five years before Platini was placed under formal investigation in 2020 when a different lead prosecutor was handling the case. Several months later, the more serious allegation of fraud was included against both men.
In 2015, the FIFA ethics committee suspended both men from soccer for six years. Platini’s ban was later reduced on appeal to four years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and he was cleared to return to soccer duty in October 2019.
Before Blatter’s sanction expired last year, FIFA banned him a second time for financial wrongdoing linked to management bonuses for successfully staging the World Cup.
Blatter had a serious bout of ill health and was placed in an induced coma after undergoing heart surgery in December 2020, which delayed a final round of questioning by Swiss authorities.
The trial, to be conducted in German and not Platini’s native French, will be the first criminal court to hear the evidence that has been repeatedly aired in interviews with both men, and in sports and civil judicial bodies.
After Blatter and Platini were banned by FIFA ethics judges, they separately challenged the verdicts at the FIFA appeals committee and at CAS. Platini lost further rulings at Switzerland’s supreme court and the European Court of Human Rights.
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