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The trial of Platini and Blatter has opened in Bellinzona

The trial of ex-UEFA president Michel Platini and ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, tried for a suspicious payment granted to the Frenchman in 2011, opened on Wednesday morning in Bellinzona. It should last two weeks and the verdict is expected on July 8.

The two former leaders of European and world football, allies who have become rivals, appear free before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona until June 22, in the case that shattered their careers. Mr. Blatter took his place in the first row, on the side of the accused, next to his lawyer Lorenz Erni, and Michel Platini in the second row, next to his defender Dominic Nellen.

The 66-year-old Frenchman and the 86-year-old Swiss face up to five years in prison for “fraud”, “unfair management”, “breach of trust” and “false titles”. The prosecution accuses them of having “illegally obtained, to the detriment of FIFA, a payment of 2 million francs in favor of Michel Platini”.

The Criminal Chamber sits with a panel of three judges chaired by Federal Criminal Judge Joséphine Contu Albrizio. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPC) is represented by Federal Prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand.

Blatter: “I have a clear conscience”

Arriving in court, Mr Blatter told the media that he was in an “optimistic as always” state of mind. He said he was “very confident”. “If I was not confident on the first day of the trial, it would be bad,” he added.

“I have been serving FIFA, international football, for 45 years, and this is my life, my professional life. And now I have to defend myself and I will defend myself well, and above all, because I have a clear conscience” , he continued. “Today is the first day of a 15-day series, so I am listening and responding,” concluded Mr. Blatter before heading towards the entrance to the court.

For his part, Michel Platini did not want to speak when he arrived before the court.

“Unfounded” payment

Defense and prosecution agree on one point: the Frenchman advised Sepp Blatter well between 1998 and 2002, during the latter’s first term as head of FIFA, and the two men signed a contract in 1999 agreeing to a annual remuneration of 300,000 francs, fully paid by FIFA.

But in January 2011, “more than eight years after the end of his activity as an adviser”, the ex-captain of the Blues “claimed a claim of 2 million francs”, paid by the football authority “with the contest” by Sepp Blatter, notes the prosecution.

For the prosecution, it is a “baseless” payment, obtained by “artfully misleading” the internal controls of FIFA by false assertions of the two leaders, the key criterion of the scam.

The two men insist on their side that they had from the start decided on an annual salary of one million francs, orally and without witnesses, without the finances of FIFA allowing the immediate payment to Mr. Platinum.

Sources unclear, expert says

According to Basel criminal lawyer and corruption expert Mark Pieth, it is not clear where the criminal investigators got their information from. Speaking on German-speaking Swiss radio SRF, Mr. Pieth said on Wednesday that many questions still remain unanswered.

Thus, it is not clear where the MPC got its information and whether it is usable, according to the expert. He has the feeling “that something has been staged and that justice may have been put before a fait accompli”.

Lively exchanges

During the first morning of the hearing, the preliminary questions gave rise to lively discussions. Lorenz Erni, lawyer for Sepp Blatter, demanded that FIFA be excluded from the proceedings as a civil party, because there is no legally binding decision allowing a civil party to be brought against a former president.

On the side of FIFA, his lawyer Catherine Hohl-Chirazi pleaded the rejection of the request, considering that it was clear that FIFA, as an injured party, had the right to constitute a civil party and was legitimate to do so. .

Dominic Nellen, Mr. Platini’s lawyer, challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal Criminal Court. He also asked that we call on the investigations carried out against the former federal prosecutor Michael Lauber, which relate to meetings with Gianni Infantino. The Public Ministry of the Confederation (MPC) and the representative of FIFA declared that these investigations had nothing to do with the accusation of payment of two million.

Concrete charges

All defense requests were dismissed on preliminary questions.

On Thursday, the trial will continue with the questioning of Sepp Blatter, which will allow us to come to the concrete charges. Scheduled until June 22, the debates will only be held in the morning – until 1:30 p.m. at the latest.

Mr. Blatter’s state of health does not allow him to work more than four hours a day. At the end of the first day of hearing, the latter declared that he did not feel well and that he had trouble breathing.

This article has been published automatically. Sources: ats / afp

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