Swiss prosecutor quizzes Michel Platini in payment probe

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by French Press Agency – AFP

Former UEFA President Michel Platini arrives at the building of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland for a hearing, Bern, Switzerland, Aug. 31, 2020. (AFP Photo)

Michel Platini was quizzed by a Swiss prosecutor on Monday in a probe investigating a two-million-Swiss-franc ($2.2 million) payment that the former European football chief received from FIFA in 2011.

Platini was summoned to Switzerland’s capital Bern by prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand. Sepp Blatter, the former president of the sport’s world governing body FIFA, is due to meet the prosecutor on Tuesday as part of the same proceedings.

Platini, the ex-head of European football’s governing body UEFA, was questioned for around three hours at the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

“The questions went very well for my client,” Platini’s lawyer Dominic Nellen told AFP after the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.

“He responded to all the questions that the OAG asked him and told how everything went down and what the truth is with the payment of the two million. We are awaiting the deposition of other witnesses in the coming days.

“There is nothing that we fear because they will tell the truth and the prosecutor can see for himself that there’s nothing illegal about that payment.”

Platini appeared in good spirits as he entered the complex housing the OAG.

Further questions expected

Platini and Blatter each face interrogation from the public prosecutor as part of the proceedings, which were opened in 2015.

In June, Hildbrand formally added Platini to an investigation into the payment he received from FIFA in 2011 for an advisory job completed in 2002, on suspicion of “complicity in unfair management, embezzlement and forgery in securities”.

Platini said at the time that the OAG had “confirmed in writing in May 2018” that his case was closed.

The 65-year-old former French football great now has the status of “accused” alongside Blatter.

Platini has been questioned once before by Swiss prosecutors but Monday was the first time he was grilled as an accused person, his lawyer said.

Nellen said he expected a further meeting with Hildbrand, at which the former UEFA chief will face further questions.

Two other former FIFA executives, Frenchman Jerome Valcke, the former secretary-general, and German Markus Kattner, the former financial director, are being investigated on “suspicion of unfair management”, the OAG has said.

Kattner will be questioned on September 4.

‘Back pay’: Blatter

Platini, who was UEFA president from January 2007 to December 2015, has claimed he is being persecuted by FIFA.

“After five years, it is quite possible that FIFA will continue to harass me through complaints with the sole aim of keeping me out of football and smearing my reputation,” he said in June.

Blatter, who is 84, told AFP the payment was above board.

“It was a back pay for work done by Michel Platini. The sum was validated by the finance commission. It cannot be a criminal offence,” Blatter said, adding that he was “serene” ahead of the new hearing.

FIFA deemed the sum a “disloyal payment” and suspended Blatter and Platini from all football-related activities, which prevented the former UEFA chief from running for the FIFA presidency in 2016.

Platini appealed against his initial eight-year suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced it to four years, then the Swiss Federal Court and finally at the European Court of Human Rights.

Hildbrand questioned Blatter in late July and early August in connection with a separate investigation into television rights contracts issued to the Caribbean Football Union.

Platini is regarded among world football’s greatest-ever players. He won the Ballon d’Or, considered the most prestigious individual award, three times — in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

Only Lionel Messi (six) and Cristiano Ronaldo (five) have won more Ballons d’Or than Platini.

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