Platini quizzed in Swiss investigation of $2M FIFA payment

GENEVA (AP) — Michel Platini was questioned at Switzerland’s federal prosecution office on Monday about a $2 million payment he received from FIFA in 2011.

The payment led to his removal as president of European soccer body UEFA — and as a candidate to lead FIFA — when Swiss federal investigators revealed the allegation five years ago.

Still, Platini became a formal criminal suspect only in June after being unable to clear his name at five different sports and civil law tribunals which upheld the evidence and legal processes against him.

The 65-year-old ex-France captain is suspected of being an accomplice to criminal mismanagement, of misappropriation and an act of forgery, according to documents seen in June by The Associated Press.

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Platini, a former FIFA vice president, did not comment on the case on Monday to waiting media when he walked into the prosecution headquarters in the Swiss capital Bern. He left hours later by a different exit.

Sepp Blatter, the 84-year-old former FIFA president who authorized Platini getting the money as deferred salary for work as his adviser a decade earlier, is due to be questioned on Tuesday in Bern.

A criminal proceeding has been open against Blatter for the Platini payment since September 2015 when federal police questioned both men in an unannounced visit to FIFA offices in Zurich on the day they attended an executive committee meeting.

Both men were provisionally suspended from soccer, then banned by FIFA’s ethics committee. Blatter’s 18-year presidency was ended by the case, and his six-year ban runs until October next year.

Platini said he hoped to return to soccer when his four-year ban expired last October, months before he was made a criminal suspect. In 2015 he was described as “between a witness and an accused person” by Switzerland’s then-attorney general Michael Lauber.

Platini said in 2018 he was cleared of all suspicion in a letter from Swiss prosecutors.

The allegation was revived after a different prosecutor, Thomas Hildbrand, took charge of some cases in the sprawling investigation of alleged corruption in international soccer amid turmoil in the department.

Monday is also the last official day in office for Lauber, who was recused last year from FIFA investigations.

Lauber resigned in fallout from being disciplined over undocumented meetings with Gianni Infantino, the current FIFA president who became a candidate in 2015 only when his UEFA boss Platini was suspended. Lauber and Infantino now face investigation by a special prosecutor.

Both Platini and Blatter deny wrongdoing over the $2 million payment and neither has been charged. Blatter faces other allegations in Switzerland.

Platini submitted invoices to FIFA in January 2011 seeking payment for additional salary for advising in Blatter’s first presidential term, from 1998-2002.

FIFA paid Platini several weeks later during a FIFA presidential campaign won by Blatter after his opponent, Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, was implicated in bribing Caribbean voters. Platini’s UEFA had endorsed Blatter late in the campaign.

Five different legal forums — including the FIFA ethics and appeals committees, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Switzerland’s supreme court and the European Court of Human Rights — have ruled against Platini since 2015.

FIFA is seeking to recover what it called the “undue payment” plus interest from Platini. It filed a civil court case in the Swiss canton (state) of Vaud where he lived and paid taxes while UEFA president.

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