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October 2020
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Another legal case involving Fifa, yet more silence in the UK media

By Tony Attwood

As if one total and absolute explosion in Switzerland is not enough it now looks as if the federal prosecutor is re-opening the case that saw Blatter and Platini kicked out of Fifa in the first place.

In December 2015, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were each given eight year bans by the Fifa ethics committee after they had investigated a payment of $2 million to Platini authorised by Blatter.   Blatter was fined $40,000; Platini was fined $80,000.

Fifa announced that Blatter, “authorised the payment to Platini which had no legal basis in the written agreement signed between both officials on 25 August 1999.  Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment. His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the hearing.” Blatter claimed the payment was for “advice” given before 2002.

Both men fell from grace, and are now long gone.  Platini is by and large silent, but of late Blatter has started to talk about Platini seemingly in a way that is not helpful to Platini, as Swiss law officers prepare to have him laid low.  Now, as we know, Infantino rules supreme in Fifa, but he too is under attack from all sides for having secret meetings with the head of the Swiss legal system.

So it is possible  that Infantino is trying to deflect interest from his case by getting the authorities back onto the earlier Blatter and Platini affair.

In June it was announced that Blatter is an “accused person” in the case of a Fifa loan given on 13 April 2010 to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, which was interest-free, unsecured and later waived, being described as a “gift” – one of a series of “irregular” payments made which benefited Jack Warner the former Fifa vice president from Trinidad who is currently evading extradition to the United States on criminal charges by staying in Trinidad.

Jérôme Valcke as secretary general, and Markus Kattner as finance director – are also accused in this case.

So what we now see is that a major case that was closed by the previous prosecutor in Switzerland, who has now been dismissed (or resigned just before that happened – it is getting hard to keep up), has been re-opened.

The implication of all this is that Blatter “bought” Platini at a time when Platini was a candidate to succeed Blatter, and Blatter was opposed by… Infantino.  Thus one possibility is that Infantino tipped off the authorities about Blatter in order to allow him (Infantino) to take over Fifa.   That is far from proven but is one possible explanation for all that has been going on.

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And then we have Jérôme Valcke who became secretary of Fifa, who also became notorious for stating at one stage that it was far easier for Fifa to organise a World Cup in a country ruled by Putin than a democratic country such as Germany….

Behind all this is the concept of “footballwashing” – the use of a big, glorious football event like the world cup, to cleanse the image of a country.  This is exactly what Fifa has agreed to do with Qatar in the 2022 world cup, something which tragically (at the moment at least) the FA, the UK’s national broadcasters, newspapers, radio, and most other outlets are going along with, despite the massive evidence to the effect that the stadia in Qatar have been built by slave labour.

So now today, Michel Platini and tomorrow, Sepp Blatter will be questioned in Switzerland by the prosecutor as part of the procedure opened in 2015 for a suspicious payment of 2 million Swiss francs.  And the UK media, anxious to be part of the footballwashing of Qatar, will say nothing.

The two men will answer in Bern the questions of the prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand over the controversial payment in 2011 of 1.8 million euros, without a written contract, to Platini, for an advisory work completed in 2002.  (And remember that throughout this the FA has continued to pump millions of pounds into Fifa, year on year).

Platini is accused of “complicity in unfair management, embezzlement and forgery in titles”.  Jérôme Valcke, Fifa’s ex-secretary general, and Markus Kattner, Fifa’s ex-financial director, are being investigated for “suspicion of unfair management”.

In June, Michel Platini indicated that the Prosecutor’s Office had “confirmed in writing in May 2018 to my lawyer that this file dating from 2015 was closed as far as I am concerned.   I have no reason to believe that prosecutor Hildbrand has another view of things, (but) after 5 years, it is quite possible that Fifa will continue to harass me through complaints, with the sole aim of being able to keep me away from football and tarnish my reputation.”

I would have thought tarnishing Platini’s reputation any further is rather hard, but we shall see.

As for the UK media, they perhaps more than anyone else are coming out of this affair really badly.  The explanation that British people are not interested in Switzerland which seems to be the usual reason given for not covering the trials, is simply unreasonable when one considers England’s attempt to get the world cup in 2022.

At a conference in Qatar in March 2012, Premier League chairman and deputy chairman of the England bid, Dave Richards, said Fifa allowed the FA to waste money on their World Cup bid when, he claimed, they had little chance of winning it, stating “Why couldn’t Fifa have said we want to take it to the Gulf? We spent £19m on that bid. When we went for it everybody believed we had a chance. But, as we went through it, a pattern emerged that suggested maybe we didn’t.”

But the issue is, the case that is exploding now in Switzerland has its roots in matters that took place at the end of the 20th century.  The FA should have known from then on there was something fishy going on.  At the very least they must be considered naive for going ahead with the bid which involved the expenditure of £19m of UK tax payers’ money.

By not reporting the current cases in Switzerland, the UK media are protecting those involved in the English bid for 2022, and that surely must be to their eternal discredit.

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