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FIFA court to hear Blatter, Platini cases


Blatter (left) and Plattini (right) PHOTO FILE

ZURICH, December 17 – A FIFA court on Thursday starts hearing the cases of suspended world football president Sepp Blatter and his deputy Michel Platini on corruption charges.

Blatter has said he will defend himself before the FIFA ethics judges on Thursday though he has described the world body’s ethics commission as “the inquisition.”

Frenchman Platini, also the head of UEFA, has said he will boycott his hearing on Friday insisting the case has been decided in advance. His lawyers say FIFA investigators have called for a life ban.

Blatter is under criminal investigation in Switzerland over a two million Swiss franc ($2 million/1.8 million euro) payment that FIFA made to Platini in 2011. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

With FIFA roiling from corruption scandals being investigated by US and Swiss authorities, this case has stopped Platini from pursuing his bid to take over from Blatter as FIFA president in an election in February.

A verdict in the cases is expected to be given as early as next Monday. More appeals, including to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, are then likely.

But five other candidates are already busy lobbying for the FIFA vote while the world body faces mounting calls for radical reform, including from sponsors.

US authorities have charged 39 individuals and companies over more than $200 million in bribes paid for football marketing and TV deals.

Swiss authorities are probing FIFA’s management and the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. They say they have now uncovered more than 130 suspicious transfers in an out of FIFA-linked accounts.

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Blatter’s hearing is due to start at 0800 GMT at FIFA headquarters.

The 79-year-old questioned the credibility of FIFA’s ethics committee in a letter sent to FIFA’s 209 member associations before the hearing.

“The manner in which the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee communicates in the ongoing investigation, calling for the maximum penalty and reinforcing public prejudice, introduces a tendentious and dangerous dimension,” Blatter wrote.

A statement by Platini’s lawyers said he chose to boycott Friday’s hearing after “the verdict was already announced to the press by a spokesman…going against the presumption of innocence.”

A FIFA ethics investigatory chamber spokesman told a French newspaper that Platini would be banned for “several years.” The spokesman said the comments were made in a private capacity.

Blatter and Platini both deny any wrongdoing and say the 2011 payment was part of an oral contract for work carried out a decade earlier.

With football inquiries widening, Switzerland has agreed to help a German investigation into possible corruption in the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany.

“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland can confirm it received a request for mutual judicial aid in this context,” Nathalie Guth, a spokeswoman for the Swiss public prosecutor, told AFP.

“The request will be treated as a priority.”

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The request relates to claims made by Der Spiegel magazine in October that Germany had paid 6.7 million euros ($7.4 million) to FIFA to buy votes that allowed it to win the right to host the 2006 World Cup.

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