Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini’s corruption trial delayed as ex-FIFA chief ‘too ill to testify’

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Sepp Blatter speaking to reporters as he arrives at court on Wednesday  (AP)
Sepp Blatter speaking to reporters as he arrives at court on Wednesday (AP)

The trial of former FIFA PresidentSepp Blatter and ex-UEFA President Michel Platini on corruption charges ground to a halt on Wednesday when the former said he was too unwell to testify.

The two men, who were once the most powerful figures in world football, are accused of arranging for a £1.6 million (two million Swiss francs) payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011.

The allegations of corruption ultimately ended Blatter’s 17-year reign as FIFA president and torpedoed Platini’s hopes of becoming his successor.

A frail-looking Blatter, 85, walked with a stoop as he arrived at court with his daughter Corinne, and told the judges he would struggle to give evidence.

"The pain will come back and I am having difficulty breathing", he said, as his testimony was delayed until Thursday.

Earlier, lawyers for Blatter and Platini failed to shift the trial to a local court or dismiss FIFA’s civil claim against Blatter and Platter to reclaim the two million francs.

"This case is being heard in the wrong stadium," Platini’s lawyer Dominic Nellen told the court, saying federal prosecutions should be reserved for large, international cases.

Michel Platini ariving in court on Wednesday (AFP via Getty Images)
Michel Platini ariving in court on Wednesday (AFP via Getty Images)

The judges dismissed the argument, and also allowed FIFA to remain involved.

"It is obvious that FIFA has been damaged," said its lawyer Catherine Hohl-Chirazi. "Two million francs was stolen."

Platini, 66, who captained France to glory at the 1984 Euros, was also present at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Wednesday morning as the trial commenced.

The prosecution is the culmination of a six-year investigation by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General, and is just one of 25 probes that have been conducted into alleged corruption in football.

Blatter is accused of fraud, misappropriation of funds, and criminal mismanagement as well as a claim that a document was forged. Platini has been charged with fraud, misappropriation of funds, participating in criminal mismanagement as an accomplice, and forgery.

Both men have denied wrongdoing, and previously insisted the payment to Platini was for consultancy work done between 1998 and 2002.

"This case goes back to an event in 2011. It is an administrative matter, a salary payment that was owed", Blatter previously said.

"The matter was correctly declared as a salary payment, accounted for accordingly and approved by all the relevant bodies of FIFA."

He told reporters outside court on Wednesday morning: “I know I have not done anything against the law. My life was football, for 45 years with FIFA”.

In advance of the trial, Platini said: "I approach this hearing with serenity and confidence. I am convinced that justice will be fully and definitively done to me after so many years of wild accusations and slander. We will prove in court that I acted with the utmost honesty, that the payment of the remaining salary was due to me by FIFA and is perfectly legal."

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini (ES Composite)
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini (ES Composite)

Blatter and Platini were banned from football by FIFA’s ethics committee in 2015 when the payment came under suspicion.

It was made at a time when Blatter was seeking re-election as FIFA president and Platini, as head of UEFA, held considerable influence over European voters.

Swiss prosecutors say Platini’s consultancy work for FIFA has been investigated, he was paid 300,000 Swiss Francs a year and the salary was paid in full. However he then made a further demand for two million Swiss Francs.

Platini was forced to quit as UEFA chief in 2016 after the football ban was imposed, and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino emerged victorious from the election that Platini had been hoping to win.

The trial will be heard in front of three judges until June 22, with a verdict due on July 8. If convicted, Platini and Blatter face up to five years in jail.

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