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Swiss prosecutors mull appeal in Blatter, Platini case

GENEVA (AFP) – Swiss state prosecutors confirmed yesterday they have started the appeal process against the acquittal of former football chiefs Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini over a suspected fraudulent payment.

Blatter and Platini, once the chiefs of world and European football respectively, were cleared on July 8 by the Federal Criminal Court in a trial following a mammoth investigation that began in 2015.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) confirmed to AFP it had taken the first step in appealing against the verdict.

“The OAG has… filed an appeal,” it said in a brief statement.

The Federal Criminal Court, based in the southern city of Bellinzona, must now provide a written explanation of its verdict, a process that can take some time.

This will then be considered by the OAG, which will then decide whether to maintain the appeal or withdraw it.

“This is not a preliminary decision. The judgement, to be justified in writing by the court as a result of the appeal application, will form the basis for further examination by the OAG,” the office said.

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter. PHOTO: AFP

Former FIFA president Blatter, 86, and Platini, 67, were cleared of the allegations that shook world football and torpedoed their time at the top.

The Federal Criminal Court rejected the prosecution’s request for a suspended prison sentence of a year and eight months.

The trial revolved around payment for Platini’s work as an adviser to Blatter between 1998 and 2002.

Platini was accused of having submitted to FIFA in 2011 an allegedly fictitious invoice for a claimed debt still outstanding for his advisory work.

They signed a contract in 1999 for an annual remuneration of CHF300,000, which was paid in full by FIFA. But the pair were tried over a CHF2 million (USD2.06 million) payment in 2011 to Platini, who was then in charge of European football’s governing body UEFA.

Blatter told the court the pair had actually struck a “gentleman’s agreement” for Platini to be paid CHF1 million a year. Both were accused of fraud and forgery of a document. Blatter was accused of misappropriation and criminal mismanagement, while Platini was accused of participating in those offences.

The court concluded that fraud was “not established with a likelihood bordering on certainty”, and therefore applied the general principle of criminal law according to which “the doubt must benefit the accused”.

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

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.

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