France seizes documents in Blatter probe

The search was conducted on Tuesday — two days before Blatter’s 80th birthday — with Swiss officials present while French investigators searched the French Football Federation (FFF) headquarters.

former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.   -  AP

French authorities have seized documents from the country's football federation in connection with the Swiss criminal investigation targeting former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, Switzerland said on Wednesday.

The search was conducted on Tuesday — two days before Blatter’s 80th birthday — with Swiss officials present while French investigators searched the French Football Federation (FFF) headquarters.

Documents in connection with Blatter’s infamous 2.0 million Swiss franc ($2.0 million, 1.8 million euros) payment to UEFA’s fallen president Platini of France, “were seized” in the search, the office of Switzerland’s attorney general said in a statement.

The statement said it asked France for co-operation on January 14. “Pursuant to that request... and in close coordination with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), the French Financial Prosecution Office proceeded yesterday to a search of the offices of the French Football Federation,” the statement said.

It added that the search was “in connection with the criminal proceedings against Mr. Joseph Blatter.”

A French judiciary source said the search lasted all day and that an official statement was expected later.

Platini’s status

Switzerland opened an investigation against Blatter, a Swiss citizen, in September for alleged criminal mismanagement during his tenure as FIFA’s president. It also suspects Blatter of making a payment that was “disloyal” to FIFA.

That payment was the 2.0 million Swiss francs Blatter authorised to Platini in 2011, reportedly for consulting work the Frenchman performed a decade earlier. Doubts surrounding that payment led FIFA to ban both Blatter and Platini from football for six years.

In the Swiss case, Platini has been questioned with a status that falls between that of a witness and an accused. “Mr. Michel Platini’s status in the proceedings has remained unchanged,” the Swiss attorney general said on Wednesday.

Between 1999 and 2002, Platini worked for FIFA out of offices rented by FFF in Paris, according to sources close to world football’s governing body.

Blatter, who, on Thursday will be celebrating his 80th birthday, was replaced on February 26 by 45-year-old Gianni Infantino as FIFA’s president, ending his 18-year reign.

Infantino, who is also Swiss, has vowed to turn the page on the crisis engulfing the organisation, which erupted last May when Swiss police, upon request from U.S. authorities, arrested seven FIFA officials at a luxury Zurich hotel.

The U.S. justice department has since charged 39 people within world football and two companies over graft going back decades, with trials that could start this year.

And Switzerland, in addition to probing Blatter, is investigating possible corruption during the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar.

Blatter, in an interview recently, vowed to clear his name before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“One cannot just let things stand as they are. The truth must be told and justice will be given to those who have it on their side,” he said.

A successful appeal at CAS will have no impact on the Swiss criminal investigation.

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