The former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has denied that payments to Michel Platini he approved were fraudulent, telling a Swiss court on Thursday that a cash transfer followed a “gentleman’s agreement” between the pair.
Swiss prosecutors accuse the two men, once among football’s most powerful figures, of illegally arranging the 2m Swiss franc (£1.6m) payment in 2011. Blatter and Platini both deny the charges. Blatter gave testimony to the federal criminal court in Bellinzona after being excused on health grounds on Wednesday.
The 86-year-old said he had asked Platini to be his adviser after the Swiss official was elected Fifa president for the first time in 1998. Platini asked to be paid 1m francs a year but Blatter told the former France captain that FIFA could not afford such a salary. Instead, they agreed Platini, one of the greatest players of his generation, would be paid 300,000 francs a year, with the outstanding cash to be paid at a later date.
“I knew when we started with Michel Platini that is not the total, and we would look at it later,” Blatter said, referring to the agreed CHF 300,000 salary for the job of technical consultant. Sealed with a handshake, Blatter said the arrangement was a “gentleman’s agreement”.
“It was an agreement between two sportsmen,” Blatter said. “I found nothing wrong with that.”
Platini signed a written contract with FIFA in 1999, but it specified only a salary of CHF 300,000, with no mention of the extra payments. He said he trusted Blatter and believed he would be paid in full eventually. “I trusted the president, and knew he would pay me one day.” Platini told the court.
Fifa’s fragile financial position in the early 2000s after the collapse of its broadcast partner meant the organization could not pay immediately when Platini stopped his work as technical adviser in 2002. Blatter described the organization as “broke”.
Platini, who led France to victory in the 1984 European Championship, did not pursue the outstanding debt until 2010, telling the court he did not need the money. He decided to claim the money after hearing that two former FIFA employees had received substantial payments.
Platini said he contacted Fifa and was informed the organization did owe him money and he should send an invoice. He sent FIFA a claim for CHF 2m in January 2011 and was paid 10 days later after the invoice was approved by Blatter, he said.
The Swiss office of the attorney general has accused Blatter and Platini of fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document. Platini, who later became Uefa’s president, was also charged as an accomplice.
A verdict is due on 8 July. If convicted, Platini and Blatter face up to five years in jail. Both officials were banned in 2016 from football for six years over the payment. Platini said the affair was a deliberate attempt to thwart his attempt to become FIFA president in 2015. “What FIFA did to me was scandalous. And the goal was that I didn’t become president of FIFA.”
The trial continues.