Former FIFA officials face secret payment fraud charges

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More than six years after being ousted in a football corruption scandal, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his former ally Michel Platini were charged Tuesday with fraud by Swiss authorities, who accused the men of arranging a secret payment of $ 2 million. .

Switzerland’s attorney general’s office accused Blatter of illegally arranging the payment of $ 2 million in 2011 to Platini, who was then head of European football’s governing body, UEFA. The criminal charges for fraud, mismanagement and forgery follow a multi-year investigation into the payment, which came to light in 2015 after U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors exposed corrupt practices to FIFA dating back to at least two decades.

This investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of dozens of powerful football officials and marketing executives on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Blatter was not charged at the time, although the scandal toppled most of FIFA’s top executives.

Blatter has been the subject of various inquiries for years, but on Tuesday was the first time he was actually charged with criminal charges. It might not be the last time. Prosecutors are always looking for a $ 1 million loan that FIFA did in 2010 to the Trinidad and Tobago football federation which was quickly deregistered by Blatter. The Trinidad federation was then led by Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice president who was fighting extradition after being named in the 2015 US indictment.

The $ 2 million payment to Platini came as Blatter faced a challenge for the FIFA presidency from Qatari billionaire Mohammed bin Hammam, who at the time was the head of football in Asia. Blatter and Platini both argue that the money was a late payment linked to the work Platini, the captain of the 1984 European Championship-winning France team, did for Blatter after being elected FIFA president for the first time in 1998.

Blatter and Platini have already been penalized for the payment by FIFA’s own disciplinary system, although their initial bans were later reduced on appeal.

Swiss prosecutors said their investigation revealed that the payment to Platini was made “without legal basis”.

“This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and illegally enriched Platini,” a statement read.

The Swiss indictment against Blatter, 85, comes as he battles ill health. He has been hospitalized several times since he was forced to leave his managerial post.

The Attorney General of Switzerland statement announcing the charges did not specify when a trial would take place. Blatter said he was optimistic about his ability to clear his name, using a statement to reiterate his claim that the payment was based on a verbal contract with Platini and that it was delayed due to the financial constraints of the company. FIFA at the time it was Ok.

“The transaction was correct as a late payment of wages,” said Blatter.

Platini, who said he learned of his indictment from newspaper articles, pledged to “fully challenge these unfounded and unfair accusations”. He also accused the Swiss prosecutors of collusion with the current president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, and of a “relentlessness to want to implicate me unduly in a case in which all my good faith had been recognized”.

While prosecutors in the United States have so far recovered tens of millions of dollars and obtained convictions against prominent defendants in their case, the efforts of Swiss authorities have yielded little result.

A case against top German officials accused of bribing officials for the rights to host the 2006 World Cup was forced to end without a verdict last year when a five-year limitation period has expired. At around the same time, Swiss prosecutors failed to prove their charge against a top Qatari official who had been accused of corruption FIFA’s top administrative official – another Blatter confidant – in a bid to win lucrative World Cup television rights. FIFA official Jérôme Valcke was, however, found guilty of a lesser charge of counterfeiting even though he was cleared of accepting a bribe.


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