Michel Platini's legal headaches appear to keep piling up in Switzerland. Mediapart understands that the Swiss prosecution authorities are pursuing the former French football star and ex-president of European football's ruling body UEFA for alleged “fraud” over a 2 million Swiss Franc (1.8 million euros) payment he received in 2011. Platini is already facing allegations from the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) of “dishonest accounting”, of “falsifying a document” and of a possible “breach of confidence” over the payment which he received from Sepp Blatter, who was then president of world football's governing body FIFA.
Blatter also now faces allegations of “fraud” as well as “dishonest accounting” and of a possible “breach of confidence”.
Both Platini and Blatter were questioned by the OAG at the start of September 2020. As Le Monde has revealed, the former UEFA boss was questioned again on November 16th, for the fourth time in this case. A week later the Swiss prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand decided to add “fraud” to the list of allegations against the former French football star. The OAG has confirmed this to Mediapart by email.
Since then Michel Platini has complained there was a “plot” against him organised by Sepp Blatter in order to to stop him from succeeding Blatter as head of FIFA. Blatter himself denies this.
The two men do, however, agree on one thing; that the payment of 1.8 million euros to Platini in 2011 was a supplementary payment owed to the boss of UEFA for his work as a technical adviser to Sepp Blatter at FIFA between 1998 and 2002. They insist that at the time they made a “verbal agreement” about the supplementary salary, a payment which Platini waited nine years to ask for.
Questioned about the new suspicions of “fraud”, the OAG simply said that it resulted from a “different evaluation” of the case “based on the discoveries at this stage”.
FIFA, which is the civil plaintiff in this case – they want the 1.8 million euros back from Platini – refused to comment. “I have nothing to feel guilty about over the payment in arrears of [Michel Platini's] salary on the basis of a common agreement,” Sepp Blatter told Mediapart. Michel Platini did not respond to our questions.
Mediapart understands that Swiss prosecutors have broadened proceedings because they now consider that, following recent progress in the investigation, the payment made to Michel Platini had no legal justification, and that the argument that there was a “verbal agreement” made on top of the written contract was not a credible one.
That had been the view of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2016, even though it reduced the length of the FIFA ban on Platini. The reduced four-year disciplinary ban was later confirmed by the Swiss federal courts and then by the European Court of Human Rightsin March 2020, which stated in its ruling. “...Having regard to the seriousness of the misconduct, the senior position held by Mr Platini in football’s governing bodies and the need to restore the reputation of the sport and of FIFA, the sanction did not appear excessive or arbitrary,” the court stated.
For a long time Michel Platini hoped that he would escape from proceedings in the criminal investigation launched by the OAG in 2015. Anxious to know if he would face any criminal allegations, in 2018 the former UEFA boss asked his lawyer to question the Swiss prosecution authority. According to Le Monde, the OAG replied that Platini did not - at that stage - face “incrimination”.
In the belief that he would be cleared legally, the former footballer then launched a major media and legal counter-attack. In September 2018 he started legal action in Paris for “defamation”. The action targeted those whom Platini suspected had reported him to the Swiss authorities: Sepp Blatter and his former legal director Marco Villiger. Both men deny the claim.
Platini hoped that as a result a criminal investigation would be opened in France under an independent investigating judge. As Mediapart revealed, the former footballer received help from Michel Debacq, a senior judicial figure at the country's top appeal court the Cour de Cassation, even though he was not supposed to be involved in the case. Mediapart also revealed that Platini mentioned his legal woes in the office of President Emmanuel Macron in March 2018. According to a phone tap of a conversation Platini had on March 24th 2019, the former footballer said: “I sent something to the Élysée saying that the president had said that he'd help me.”
In the end the ex-boss of UEFA won only a partial victory: the Paris prosecutors did not open an investigation themself but instead in October 2019 they referred his complaint to the Swiss prosecution authorities.
Now, however, that complaint looks unlikely to go anywhere. The Swiss prosecution authorities announced back in June 2020 that there were going to pursue action against Platini for three alleged offences in the criminal law part of the case, before adding the new “fraud” element at the end of November. It is therefore very unlikely that the authorities in Switzerland will launch legal proceedings for “defamation” in relation to Blatter and Villager.
LeMonde reports that the OAG is seeking to verify whether the January 2011 payment was made by Sepp Blatter in order to ensure the support of Michel Platini for the former's re-election as head of FIFA five months later. Platini denies this.
In France, judges in charge of an investigation into alleged corruption in the awarding of the football World Cup to Qatar in 2022 are pondering a possible link between the payment of the 1.8 million euros and the suspected role played by Michel Platini in backing Qatar (see Mediapart's investigation here).
Platinit was interviewed in custody in this case in June 2019 by detectives from the anti-corruption unit OCLCIFF. That was as part of a preliminary investigation opened by the financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet National Financier (PNF). In December 2019 this became a full judicial investigation led by two judges. No one at this stage had been placed under formal investigation as part of that probe.
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- The original French version of this article can be found here.
English version by Michael Streeter
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