Prosecutors in the fraud trial of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Vice President Michel Platini on Wednesday requested that the two men be sentenced to 20 months in suspended prison terms.
Blatter and Platini, the former France captain who was president of UEFA, faced penalties of up to five years for financial misconduct, but an actual prison sentence was unlikely before their 11-day trial. A verdict is expected on July 8th.
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The legal risk to 86-year-old Blatter increased on Wednesday when prosecutors in Fifa’s home city of Zurich confirmed to the Associated Press that they had opened criminal proceedings against him in a separate complaint filed by the world soccer body in 2020.
Blatter and his right-hand man, former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Falk, are now officially suspects in an investigation into alleged mismanagement related to the FIFA World Football Museum project in the center of Zurich. The new details were first reported by a Swiss financial news site.
Earlier on Wednesday at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Attorney General Thomas Hildebrand also asked the three Platini judges to pay more than 2.2 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million) to FIFA in compensation.
Blatter and Platini denied fraud and lesser charges related to the $2 million payment approved by FIFA to the great France in 2011. At that time, Platini was UEFA President and FIFA Vice President and was expected to succeed Blatter, most likely in 2015.
“Calm and confident,” Platini said in a statement released after the court session.
“The indictment of the attorney general today is without any basis,” Platini said. “The trial discussions have established that this criminal procedure has no reason to exist.”
The prosecution argued that there was no legal or contractual basis for FIFA to bill Platini to serve as presidential advisor in Blatter’s first term between 1998 and 2002. FIFA also paid $229,000 in social security taxes in Zurich.
Both denied any wrongdoing and claimed they made a verbal deal in 1998 for Platini to receive an extra salary that FIFA could not pay at the time. Platini signed a contract in August 1999 to pay 300,000 Swiss francs ($300,000) annually.
Their defense had previously failed at FIFA’s Ethics Committee, which banned them from playing football and removed them from office, the FIFA Appeal Committee, and later in separate appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Blatter said FIFA had included the money correctly, and Platini claimed the allegations came to light in September 2015 to prevent him from running for the FIFA presidency.
In June 2015, Blatter announced his plan to resign early as president in the fallout from a sprawling US corruption investigation. A separate but collaborative case by Swiss prosecutors led to an 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.
There are now two federal and one cantonal (state) criminal cases against Blatter and Falk.
FIFA has asked Zurich prosecutors to consider a $140 million renovation of a building in downtown Zurich for a museum long-viewed as Blatter’s pet project that opened in 2016. The losing museum is linked to FIFA’s long-term rental of apartments and offices on the site owned by a company. Swiss Life Insurance.
Blatter’s lawyers said 18 months ago that the museum’s allegations were “unfounded and strongly denied”.
Federal prosecutors, including Hildebrand, are investigating a $1 million loan from FIFA in 2010 to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association. The suspects are Blatter, Falk and former FIFA chief financial officer Marcus Kattner, who testified in court on Tuesday about Platini’s payment.
The loan was later ceded and the football money was effectively given to Jack Warner, FIFA’s vice president, weeks before he was to run for the Caribbean general election. Warner then became a cabinet minister.
Valcke is also awaiting a ruling by a federal appeals court in Bellinzona after a retrial in March on charges relating to the use of a Qatari-owned villa in Sardinia and the World Cup broadcast rights. Among the three accused, the executive director of football and radio broadcasting Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of the French champions Paris Saint-Germain.