Prosecutors in the fraud trial of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and vice-president Michel Platini requested on Wednesday that the pair be given 20-month suspended prison sentences.
Blatter and Platini, a former France national team captain who was president of European governing body UEFA, were sentenced to up to five years for financial misconduct, but the actual prison sentence was considered unlikely ahead of their 11-day trial. Verdicts are expected on July 8.
Blatter’s 86-year-old legal danger deepened on Wednesday when prosecutors in FIFA’s hometown of Zurich confirmed to The Associated Press that they had opened criminal charges against him in a separate complaint. filed by the world football body in 2020.
Blatter and his longtime right-hand man, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, are now official suspects in an investigation into allegations of mismanagement over the FIFA World Football Museum project in the center of Zürich. The new details were first reported by a Swiss financial news site.
Earlier on Wednesday at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand also asked Platini’s three judges to pay FIFA more than 2.2 million Swiss francs (2.2 million USD) in compensation.
Blatter and Platini deny fraud and lesser charges related to a FIFA-approved $2 million payment to the French great in 2011. At the time, Platini was UEFA president, FIFA vice-president and was supposed to succeed Blatter, probably in 2015.
Platini said in a statement released after the hearing that he was “calm and confident”. “The prosecutor’s indictment today lacks any basis,” Platini said. “The proceedings of the trial proved that this criminal procedure had no reason to exist”. FIFA also paid $229,000 in social security contributions to Zurich.
Both have long denied wrongdoing and claim to have reached a verbal agreement in 1998 for Platini to receive extra salary which FIFA could not pay at the time. Platini signed a contract in August 1999 to be paid 300,000 Swiss francs ($300,000) per year.
Their defense previously failed before the FIFA Ethics Committee, which banned them from football and removed them from their positions, the FIFA Appeals Committee, and then in separate appeals before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Blatter said FIFA correctly accounted for the money and Platini claimed the allegation came to light in September 2015 to prevent him from campaigning to become FIFA president.
In June 2015, Blatter announced his intention to step down early as president following an extensive US corruption probe. A separate but cooperating case from Swiss prosecutors led to the investigation into Platini’s payment.
Blatter and Platini testified last week and both are expected to make closing statements at the end of the trial on June 22.
Two federal and one cantonal criminal proceedings are currently underway against Blatter and Valcke.
FIFA has asked Zurich prosecutors to review the $140 million renovation of a downtown Zurich building for a museum long considered a pet Blatter project that opened in 2016. The loss-making museum is linked to a long-term rental by FIFA of apartments and offices on the site belonging to the insurance company Swiss Life.
Blatter’s lawyers said 18 months ago the museum’s allegations were “baseless and vehemently denied”. The suspects are Blatter, Valcke and former FIFA chief financial officer Markus Kattner, who testified in court on Tuesday about Platini’s payment.
The loan was later canceled and effectively offered football money to then-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, weeks before he was to stand as a candidate in the Caribbean islands general election. Warner then became a government minister.
Valcke is also awaiting a verdict from the federal appeals court in Bellinzona after a retrial in March on charges related to the use of a Qatari-owned villa in Sardinia and World Cup broadcasting rights. The three defendants include director of football and broadcasting Nasser al-Khelaïfi, the president of French champions Paris Saint-Germain. PA SSC SSC
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