SWITZERLAND: Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, once chiefs of world and European football, were acquitted on Friday July 8 of an alleged fraudulent payment which rocked the sport and torpedoed their passage to the top.

Michel Platini (left) and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Photos: AFP

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona rejected the prosecution’s request for a one-year and eight-month suspended prison sentence, following a mammoth investigation that began in 2015 and lasted six years.

Former FIFA president Blatter, 86, and Platini, 67, went on trial over a 2011 payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.05 million, about 73.4 million baht) to Platini , who was then in charge of European football’s governing body, UEFA.

The former French football great “submitted to FIFA in 2011 an allegedly fictitious invoice for an (alleged) still existing debt for his activity as a FIFA adviser in the years 1998 to 2002”, according to the court.

Blatter insisted in court that the pair had reached an oral ‘gentlemen’s agreement’, with part of Platini’s compensation to be paid at a later date when FIFA’s fragile finances allowed.

Both were charged with fraud and forgery. Blatter was charged with embezzlement and criminal mismanagement, while Platini was charged with participating in these offences.

Blatter and Platini maintained their innocence throughout their trial, which ran from June 8-22.

The indictment was filed by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.

FIFA and UEFA have their headquarters in Switzerland, respectively in Zurich and Nyon.

POWER DRAMA

Both Platini and Blatter were banned from the sport just when the former seemed ideally placed to succeed Blatter as head of world football’s governing body.

The two allies became rivals as Platini grew eager to take over, while Blatter’s tenure was quickly cut short by a separate FIFA corruption scandal in 2015 investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. United.

Joseph “Sepp” Blatter joined FIFA in 1975, became its general secretary in 1981 and president of world football’s governing body in 1998.

He was forced to retire in 2015 and was banned by FIFA for eight years, then reduced to six years, for ethical breaches for authorizing the payment to Platini, allegedly made for his own benefit rather than that of of FIFA.

Platini is considered one of the greatest players in world football. He won the Ballon d’Or, considered the most prestigious individual award, three times – in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

Platini served as UEFA President from January 2007 to December 2015.

He appealed his initial eight-year suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced it to four years.