French soccer HQ raided in Swiss case against Blatter
09 March 2016, 15:31
Geneva — Swiss authorities say evidence has been seized in a search at the French soccer federation headquarters for their criminal case against former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
The office of Switzerland's attorney general on Wednesday said the governing body for French soccer consented to the search carried out Tuesday with the cooperation of the French Financial Prosecution Office.
Criminal proceedings were opened against Blatter last September for suspected financial mismanagement over a $2 million payment he approved from FIFA funds for Michel Platini in 2011.
"Documents were seized in connection with the suspected payment," the Swiss federal prosecution office said in a statement, which detailed a formal request for help from French authorities on Jan. 14.
Blatter and Platini were both banned from soccer for six years after an investigation by FIFA's ethics committee. They are appealing against their sanctions at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Both men have constantly denied wrongdoing and claimed they had a verbal deal for additional salary that former France great Platini would receive for working as Blatter's presidential adviser from 1999-2002.
Before the payment was revealed in September, Platini had been the leading candidate to succeed Blatter as president in FIFA's emergency election on Feb. 26
The payment emerged during a wider investigation led by Switzerland's attorney general, Michael Lauber, of FIFA business. The investigation includes suspected money laundering in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.
Platini's status in the Swiss investigation is "between a witness and an accused person," Lauber has said.
The case against Blatter also involves alleged misappropriation of FIFA funds during his more than 17 years as FIFA president, which formally ended two weeks ago.
He allegedly arranged an undervalued deal for 2010-2014 World Cup broadcast rights for the Caribbean with former FIFA vice president Jack Warner.
Platini has previously said he asked Blatter for a salary of 1 million Swiss francs when approached in 1998 to work for the newly-elected president.
Blatter said there was a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs, the same as FIFA's then secretary general in line with its salary structure, plus a "gentleman's agreement" to get the rest later.
Swiss law obliged FIFA only to pay the deferred money within five years. It was not until 2010 that Platini, by then president of the governing body for European football and a FIFA vice president, reportedly asked for the balance, and was paid in February 2011.
That timing has raised suspicion as the payment came during a FIFA presidential election campaign. UEFA later urged its members to support Blatter — who promised them it would be his final term — against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.
Blatter won that 2011 election unopposed after Bin Hammam was implicated in bribing Caribbean voters. From then on, Platini was the likely successor to lead FIFA.
Instead, Platini's long-time right-hand man at UEFA, general secretary Gianni Infantino, won the FIFA presidential election last month.