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International

Blatter and Platini Acquitted on Charges of Defrauding FIFA

BELLINZONA, Switzerland — Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were acquitted on charges of defrauding FIFA by a Swiss criminal court on Friday, a rare positive outcome for the pair who were among soccer’s most powerful figures before being embroiled in corruption investigations.

The case was centered around a $2 million payment from FIFA to Platini with Blatter’s approval in 2011, for work done a decade earlier. The verdict followed an 11-day trial last month at the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland in Bellinzona.

“Following the decision of the judges of the Court of Bellinzona, this morning, I wanted to express my happiness for all my loved ones that justice has finally been done after seven years of lies and manipulation,” Platini said in a statement. “The truth has come to light during this trial.

“I kept saying it: my fight is a fight against injustice. I won a first game. In this case, there are culprits who did not appear during this trial. Let them count on me, we will meet again. Because I will not give up and I will go all the way in my quest for truth.”

Swiss prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand had requested a 20-month suspended sentence for both Blatter and Platini.

Blatter announced his plan to resign early as president, in June 2015, in the fallout from a sprawling American corruption investigation — ending his 17-year reign. A separate but cooperating case by Swiss prosecutors led to the Platini payment being investigated.

The fallout ended Platini’s campaign to succeed his former mentor and saw the former French soccer great removed as president of UEFA, the governing body of European soccer.

“Believe me, going from being a legend of world soccer to a devil is very difficult, especially when it comes to you in a totally unfair way,” Platini added.

Both Blatter and Platini have long denied wrongdoing and claim they had a verbal deal in 1998 for Platini to get extra salary that FIFA could not pay at the time. Platini signed a contract in August 1999 to be paid 300,000 Swiss francs ($300,000) annually.

That defense first failed with judges at the FIFA ethics committee, which banned them from soccer, and later in separate appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

 

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