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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrives in court for day two of explosive fraud trial

A defiant former FIFA president Sepp Blatter insisted he will ‘walk out free’ as he arrived in court this morning for the second day of his explosive fraud trial.

He told reporters that he would speak in court today after his testimony was stopped on Wednesday when he complained about chest pains and having trouble breathing.

Blatter, along with his former protégé and French footballing legend Michel Platini, appeared in Swiss Federal Criminal Court yesterday where they are facing corruption charges which triggered their downfall from the top of global football.

Once among the game’s most powerful figures, the pair are being tried over a two million Swiss franc (£1.6 million) payment in 2011 to Platini.

Today, the 86-year-old Swiss – who has been suffering from long-term health issues – looked frail as he made his way through a crowd of reporters towards the Bellinzona courthouse ahead of giving his delayed testimony.

But outside the court, Blatter again presented a confident guise to the gathered press pack, which surrounded him with microphones as he arrived.

Asked by a reporter off camera whether he would speak in court, Blatter said: ‘Of course I will speak, if they make me speak, I will speak,’ without elaborating further on what he would say. 

He was then asked how he felt for the first time entering a courthouse.

‘On the one hand, I’ve entered houses, I’ve entered small houses everywhere, huts, this is different, but it’s still a house. It is a courthouse, and we will come out of this courthouse free,’ he told journalists.

‘You must wait for the questions they will ask me, then I will answer the questions according to my heart and conscience,’ Blatter said before the hearing. ‘Everything is fine, there is sunshine and your smile.’

Yesterday, sitting with his lawyer on a long bench, Blatter told judges in a voice barely louder than a whisper: ‘I’m not well. I have these problems that come and go.

‘I can’t breathe well. I don’t feel capable at the moment of responding to an interrogation.’ The judges allowed him to delay his testimony to Thursday, a day later than planned. ‘I hope that I’ll feel better tomorrow,’ Blatter said. 

Pictured: Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrives outside of Swiss Federal court this morning in Bellinzona for the second day of his explosive fraud trial after his testimony was stopped yesterday when he complained about chest pains and having trouble breathing

Pictured: Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrives outside of Swiss Federal court this morning in Bellinzona for the second day of his explosive fraud trial after his testimony was stopped yesterday when he complained about chest pains and having trouble breathing

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrives in front of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court (Bundesstrafgericht) in Bellinzona, Switzerland June 9, 2022

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrives in front of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court (Bundesstrafgericht) in Bellinzona, Switzerland June 9, 2022

In 2021, it was reported that Blatter had spent time in hospital with a non-life-threatening condition, with his daughter saying at the time his body was showing signs of improvement ‘every day’.

Lawyers for Blatter and Platini failed yesterday to shift the trial to a local court or dismiss FIFA’s civil claim against Blatter and Platini 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. 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.’ 

Swiss prosecutors accuse them of having, to the detriment of FIFA, illegally obtained the payment, plus social security contributions of 229,126 francs, in favour of Platini.

The former French football great ‘submitted to FIFA in 2011 an allegedly fictitious invoice for a (alleged) debt still existing for his activity as an adviser for FIFA in the years 1998 to 2002,’ according to the court.

The case meant Blatter ended his 17-year reign as FIFA president in disgrace in 2015 and torpedoed hopes by former France midfielder Platini of succeeding him. Platini was forced to quit UEFA in 2016.

Speaking outside the courthouse yesterday, Blatter – accompanied by his daughter Corinne and his lawyer – struck a confident tone.

‘I am absolutely confident, the sun is shining, and I’m in a good mood,’ he told journalists before the hearing. ‘I know I have not done anything against the law. My life was football, for 45 years with FIFA. My life is football.’

Platini also said he was confident, and joked he would have to take course in German so he could follow the proceedings.

‘I am convinced that justice will be fully and definitively done to me after so many years of wild accusations and slander,’ he said in statement before the trial began. ‘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.’  

Three judges will hear the case in the trial which runs until June 22. A verdict is due on July 8. If convicted, Platini and Blatter face up to five years in jail. 

Blatter (pictured on Thursday), along with his former protégé and French footballing legend Michel Platini, appeared in Swiss Federal Criminal Court on Wednesday where they are facing corruption charges which triggered their downfall from the top of global football

Blatter (pictured on Thursday), along with his former protégé and French footballing legend Michel Platini, appeared in Swiss Federal Criminal Court on Wednesday where they are facing corruption charges which triggered their downfall from the top of global football

Pictured: Blatter speaks to the media as he leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court after the first day of his trial on Wednesday, June 8

Pictured: Blatter speaks to the media as he leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court after the first day of his trial on Wednesday, June 8

Platini looks on during a break as part of his trial on Wednesday over a suspected fraudulent payment at Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court

Platini looks on during a break as part of his trial on Wednesday over a suspected fraudulent payment at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court

Platini is surrounded by media representatives as he leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, after the first day of his trial on Wednesday

Platini is surrounded by media representatives as he leaves the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, after the first day of his trial on Wednesday

Blatter and Platini: Close allies who became bitter enemies

Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter joined FIFA in 1975, became its general secretary in 1981 and the president of world football’s governing body in 1998.

Despite a controversial reign at the top of FIFA, Blatter continued to be re-elected as the president of the world football body. He remained in the role for 17 years. 

He was forced to stand down in 2015 and was banned by FIFA for eight years, later reduced to six, over ethics breaches for authorising the payment to Platini, allegedly made in his own interests rather than FIFA’s.

Platini is regarded among world football’s greatest-ever players. 

He won the Ballon d’Or, considered the most prestigious individual award, three times – in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

Only Lionel Messi (seven) and Cristiano Ronaldo (five) have won more Ballons d’Or than Platini.

He captained France to victory in the 1984 European Championship, and in 1985 won the European Cup with Italian club Juventus.

He coached the French national team for a stint, before heading up the committee organising the 1998 World Cup, which was hosted in France. 

Platini was UEFA’s president from January 2007 to December 2015.

Platini and retired Swiss football administrator Blatter were banned from the sport at the very moment when Platini seemed ideally-placed to succeed Blatter at the helm of world football’s governing body.

The two allies became rivals as Platini grew impatient to take over, while Blatter’s tenure was brought to a swift end by a separate 2015 FIFA corruption scandal investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Platini appealed against his initial eight-year suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced it to four years.

The on-going court case is one of 25 investigations by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) into corruption in football, with some 12 still pending. The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also investigated corruption in the game.

Following a mammoth six-year investigation that began in 2015, the OAG accused Blatter of ‘fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document’.

Platini is accused of fraud, misappropriation, participating in criminal mismanagement as an accomplice, and forgery of a document.

Blatter and Platini, who were once close associates but are now bitter enemies, have both denied wrongdoing. They say they had a verbal agreement over the payment, which related to consultancy work by Platini between 1998 and 2002.

The pair were banned from the sport at the very moment when Platini seemed ideally-placed to succeed Blatter at the helm of world football’s governing body.

The two allies became rivals as Platini grew impatient to take over, while Blatter’s tenure was brought to a swift end by a separate 2015 FIFA corruption scandal investigated by the FBI.

In the Bellinzona trial, the defence and the prosecution agree on one point: Platini was employed as an adviser to Blatter between 1998 and 2002. They signed a contract in 1999 for an annual remuneration of 300,000 francs.

‘The compensation agreed in accordance with this contract was invoiced by Platini on each occasion and paid in full by FIFA,’ said the OAG.

However, more than eight years after the end of his advisory role, the former France captain ‘demanded a payment in the amount of two million francs’, the OAG alleged.

‘With Blatter’s involvement, FIFA made a payment to Platini in said amount at the beginning of 2011. The evidence gathered by the OAG has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis. This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini,’ the federal prosecution alleges.

The men insist that they had, from the outset, orally agreed to an annual salary of one million francs. 

The judges will have to go through the friendship formed between the defendants, their growing rivalry and then their joint ejection from world football – but also distinguish that from the alleged crimes at the heart of the court case. 

Sepp Blatter, second left, accompanied by his daughter Corinne Blatter, left, and his lawyer Lorenz Erni, second right, arrive at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Sepp Blatter, second left, accompanied by his daughter Corinne Blatter, left, and his lawyer Lorenz Erni, second right, arrive at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Pictured: Platini is surrounded by media representatives as he arrives to court in Switzerland

Pictured: Platini is surrounded by media representatives as he arrives to court in Switzerland

Pictured: Sepp Blatter is mobbed by the media as he arrives to court in Switzerland

Pictured: Sepp Blatter is mobbed by the media as he arrives to court in Switzerland

Michel Platini (centre), and his lawyers arrive at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona

Michel Platini (centre), and his lawyers arrive at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona

‘This case goes back to an event in 2011. It is an administrative matter, a salary payment that was owed,’ Blatter said ahead of the trial. ‘The matter was correctly declared as a salary payment, accounted for accordingly and approved by all the relevant bodies of FIFA.’

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.’

In a statement to AFP news agency, Platini said:  ‘It is outstanding salary, owed by FIFA, under oral contract and paid under conditions of the most perfect legality. Nothing else! I acted, as in all my life and career, with the utmost honesty.’ 

FIFA’s Ethics Committee banned Blatter and Platini from football in 2015, initially for eight years, although this was later reduced.

The committee said the transaction, made when Blatter was seeking re-election, lacked transparency and presented a conflict of interest. When Blatter approved the payment, he was campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. 

Platini, as president of European soccer association UEFA, was seen as having sway with European members who could influence the vote.

The OAG said its investigation revealed that Platini worked as a consultant between 1998-2002 and that an annual compensation of 300,000 Swiss francs was contractually agreed.

Platini’s invoice had been paid in full but the former France international later demanded further salary payments of two million francs, it said. 

Swiss prosecutors accuse the pair (pictured together in 2015), once among the game's most powerful figures, of unlawfully arranging a payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.6 million) in 2011 from FIFA to Platini

Swiss prosecutors accuse the pair (pictured together in 2015), once among the game’s most powerful figures, of unlawfully arranging a payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.6 million) in 2011 from FIFA to Platini

Comedian Simon Brodkin (not pictured) throws dollar bills at FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during a press conference at the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters on July 20, 2015 in Zurich

Comedian Simon Brodkin (not pictured) throws dollar bills at FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during a press conference at the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters on July 20, 2015 in Zurich

Following a mammoth six-year investigation that began in 2015, the OAG accused Blatter (pictured in 2010 being handed the World Cup trophy), 86, of 'fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document'

Following a mammoth six-year investigation that began in 2015, the OAG accused Blatter (pictured in 2010 being handed the World Cup trophy), 86, of ‘fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document’

Platini (pictured celebrating a goal in 1984), 66, is accused of fraud, misappropriation, participating in criminal mismanagement as an accomplice, and forgery of a document

Platini (pictured celebrating a goal in 1984), 66, is accused of fraud, misappropriation, participating in criminal mismanagement as an accomplice, and forgery of a document

UEFA President, Michel Platini (right) presents the UEFA Champions League Cup to Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (left) during a 'handover' ceremony at the Guildhall in London, 2011

UEFA President, Michel Platini (right) presents the UEFA Champions League Cup to Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (left) during a ‘handover’ ceremony at the Guildhall in London, 2011

Platini, who captained France to victory in the 1984 European Championships, was forced to quit UEFA in 2016 after losing his appeal against his ban. He also lost his appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.

The three-time European footballer of the year had been favourite to replace Blatter after the Swiss administrator quit in the wake of the huge corruption scandal which engulfed FIFA in 2015. Instead, Platini’s former general secretary at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, entered the FIFA race and won the election in 2016. 

In November 2017, American goalkeeper Hope Solo accused Blatter of sexual assault at the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or awards, moments before she took to the stage to present an award. 

She told Portuguese newspaper Expresso that she ‘had Sepp Blatter grab my a**.’ She said she ‘was in shock and completely thrown off.

‘I had to quickly pull myself together to present my team-mate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby [Wambach].’

Blatter’s spokesman Thomas Renggli dismissed the allegation as ‘ridiculous.’ 

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