Zurich: FIFA’s ethics judges are set to hear a defence in the allegations against UEFA chief Michel Platini on Friday, although the Frenchman will not be there to argue his case after vowing to boycott the hearing.
The Platini hearing follows an appearance at the same FIFA court by world football’s suspended president Sepp Blatter, who spent more than eight hours at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters being questioned in a corruption case that may end his career.
Both Blatter and Platini, a FIFA vice president, were suspended in October after Swiss prosecutors opened a criminal investigation looking partly into a USD 2 million/1.8 million euros payment made to Platini in 2011 for work carried out about a decade earlier.
The two men – once the most powerful figures in world football – face longer suspensions in a verdict expected from FIFA ethics judges early next week. Platini has said the verdict has been decided in advance and he will therefore not show up. He will be represented by his lawyers.
FIFA’s ethics judges have dismissed Platini’s claims of a pre-determined verdict and pledged to review the evidence against him fairly. Before his own hearing, Blatter launched similar criticisms against the FIFA court, but still appeared in his own defence, accompanied by his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni.
Neither men spoke to the dozens of journalists gathered outside FIFA on Thursday, but shortly after the hearing Blatter’s Virginia-based lawyer Richard Cullen issued a statement calling for an acquittal. “President Blatter looks forward to a decision in his favor, because the evidence requires it,” Cullen said in an email sent to AFP.
“President Blatter behaved properly and certainly did not violate FIFA’s Code of Ethics. This investigation should be closed and the suspension lifted,” Cullen added. Both Blatter and Platini deny wrongdoing. If convicted, appeals to a FIFA’s appeal committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) are possible for both men.
As Blatter exited FIFA’s headquarters on Thursday, possibly for the last time, his temporary replacement warned that the unprecedented storm surrounding the organisation may not be over.
Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou and acting secretary general Markus Kattner issued an open letter which noted that “there may be further challenges ahead.” And in a sign of the seemingly ever widening corruption probe within global football, Switzerland said that it had carried out a US request to freeze about 50 accounts in Swiss banks. A Swiss justice ministry spokesman Folco Galli said “funds in the high tens of millions are blocked.”
It was the wave of US justice department indictments announced in May that unleashed the scandal which has since rocked FIFA. Dozens of people are facing charges in US courts, but Blatter and Platini are not among that group.
Their possible long-term suspensions from FIFA would however mark the highest profile casualties of the scandal. Before his suspension, Blatter had agreed to step down when his replacement was chosen in a February vote and Platini had been the favourite to succeed him.
But the Frenchman’s campaign has been stalled by ethics inquiry. Separately, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, whose country will host the 2018 World Cup, said Blatter should be a Nobel Peace laureate. “That is someone who should be given the Nobel Peace Prize,” Putin said while Blatter faced questioning at FIFA. “His contribution to the global humanitarian sphere is colossal.”