Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini Cleared of FIFA Corruption Charges at Trial

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 8, 2022

TOPSHOT - Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter gives a thumb up as he leaves Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court after the verdict of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment, in the southern Switzerland city of Bellinzona, on July 8, 2022. - Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, once the chiefs of world and European football, were acquitted by a Swiss court on July 8, 2022 following a trial over a suspected fraudulent payment. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

A Swiss judge cleared former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and former UEFA president Michel Platini of wrongdoing related to a $2 million consulting payment in 2011, which led FIFA to ban both men from all football-related activities for eight years in 2015.

Judge Josephine Contu Albrizio said the consulting fees "seemed credible" as two of the sport's past power brokers were acquitted of fraud charges, per Reuters' John Revill.

"I have always said my conscience is clear," Blatter said. "Naturally nobody's perfect, but in the case of my job, my work, 44 years working at FIFA, for me it is so important that this case has been settled at the highest Swiss level."

Platini added: "I want to express my happiness for all my loved ones that justice has finally been done after seven years of lies and manipulation."

Prosecutors argued Blatter and Platini unlawfully arranged the $2 million payment, but the defense team stated it was connected to a "gentlemen's agreement" made between the pair in 1998 when Platini agreed to become Blatter's technical adviser, per Revill.

Albrizio ruled it was plausible they reached the agreement at an earlier date and Platini waited to request the payment until 2010 since he didn't need the money immediately.

The trial followed a seven-year investigation into the alleged corruption.

Blatter served as president of FIFA from 1998 through 2015. He worked as the governing body's technical director and general secretary for a total of 24 years before taking over the lead role.

In March 2021, he received an additional six-year ban from FIFA for the alleged violation of three articles of its code of ethics related to bonus payments. The suspension runs through 2027.

Blatter said after Friday's verdict he may still attend the 2022 men's World Cup in Qatar, per Revill.

"It depends if they invite me," he said.

Platini said the allegations were an attempt to hurt his chances of winning the FIFA election to replace Blatter in 2015. Gianni Infantino was voted into the role in February 2016 and secured reelection in 2019.

Platini was a standout midfielder before switching to an executive role, tallying 312 career goals during stints with Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus. He also scored 41 times for the French national team and was captain of the 1984 UEFA European Championship winning squad.