Michel Platini “was worth his million” Swiss francs a year, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter insisted Thursday, telling a Swiss court he could not understand why the pair were answering fraud charges.
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The former world football chief and French football legend Platini are being tried at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona, following an investigation that began in 2015 and lasted six years.
The pair are being tried over a two million Swiss franc ($2.08 million) payment in 2011 to Platini, who was then in charge of European football’s governing body UEFA.
Blatter spoke for the first time in the two-week trial, which opened on Wednesday.
“I just had this man on my team and he was worth his million,” said the 86-year-old retired Swiss football administrator.
Platini was employed as an adviser to Blatter between 1998 and 2002. They signed a contract in 1999 for an annual remuneration of 300,000 Swiss francs, which was paid in full by FIFA.
The men insist that they had, from the outset, orally agreed to an annual salary of one million francs.
Blatter joined FIFA in 1975 and became the president of world football’s governing body in 1998.
He told the court he turned to former France captain Platini for advice.
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 the mid-1980s.
“When I was elected as president of FIFA, we had a bad record. But I thought that a man who had been in football could help us — FIFA and myself,” Blatter told the court.
Platini “told me: ‘I’m worth a million’. I told him: ‘So you’ll be with me for a million’,” he added.
– ‘Gentlemen’s agreement’ –
The prosecution accuses Blatter of having signed off an invoice for two million Swiss francs presented to FIFA by Platini in 2011, almost nine years after the end of his work as Blatter’s adviser.
But the two men had never signed a contract providing for such a salary.
Blatter insisted that he had agreed with Platini a “balance” to be settled “later” when FIFA’s finances would allow it, in a “gentlemen’s agreement” concluded orally and without witnesses.
“It’s a salary that was due,” he insisted.
“I don’t know why we are in a criminal hearing for an administrative procedure,” he said in a strained voice, repeating that the investigation had put him through “seven years of punishment — an eternity”.
Both are accused of fraud and forgery of a document. Blatter is accused of misappropriation and criminal mismanagement, while Platini, 66, is accused of participating in those offences.
The trial will conclude on June 22, with the three judges expected to deliver their verdict on July 8.
If convicted, the pair could face up to five years in jail or a fine.