Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and France footballing legend Michel Platini were both cleared of corruption charges by a Swiss court on Friday after a seven-year investigation during which they were booted out of the sport, Reuters news agency reported.
According to the BBC, the pair stood trial over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs made by Blatter to Platini in 2011. Both men had denied wrongdoing and said the transfer was belated payment for Platini’s advisory work for Fifa.
A judge said the pair’s account of a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ for FIFA to pay Platini 2 million Swiss francs for consulting work was credible, and serious doubts existed about the prosecution’s allegation it was a fraudulent payment, Reuters further reported.
On his arrival at the court on Friday, Blatter reportedly said: “I am not innocent in my life but in this case I am innocent.”
Blatter, 86, and former Uefa president Platini, 67, were banned from football in 2015 and indicted last November.
Following a case that was opened in 2015, their 11-day trial over the 2011 payment took place at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona and concluded on 22 June.
Frenchman Platini had an illustrious playing career in football and is a three-time Ballon d’Or winner.
He captained France to victory at the 1984 European Championship and won the 1985 European Cup with Juventus.
Platini later went on to coach the French national team and became Uefa president in 2007.
When his own conduct was investigated by Fifa’s ethics committee as part of a wider bid to root out corruption from the organisation, he stood down from the presidency of Uefa and was subsequently banned from football for eight years, though that was later reduced to four, BBC reported.
His appeal against the ban was rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) in 2020.
According to Reuters, Platini worked as a consultant between 1998 and 2002 with an annual salary of 300,000 Swiss francs — with the salary being topped up to 1 million per year later.
The senior judge, Josephine Contu Albrizio, said a verbal agreement between Blatter and Platini seemed credible, as did the Frenchman’s seeing his market value at 1 million per year due to his status in the game.
The payment emerged following a huge investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice into bribery, fraud and money-laundering at FIFA in 2015, which triggered Blatter’s resignation.
The case meant Blatter ended his reign as FIFA president in disgrace and it wrecked Platini’s hopes of succeeding him after he was banned from football when the affair came to light.