Sepp Blatter, 86, and Michel Platini, 67, the former presidents of soccer governing bodies FIFA and UEFA, respectively, have both been acquitted of fraud in a Swiss court today (July 8), ending a lengthy legal process.

They had both stood accused – in a case that first came to public attention in 2015 – of illegally arranging payment of CHF2 million ($2.04 million now) from FIFA to Platini in 2011.

However, a judge has now found both not guilty, despite prosecutors telling the court in the Swiss town of Bellinzona that the payment “was made without a legal basis” and that it “unlawfully enriched Platini.”

This result – after the trial was held last month – means Platini, who at the time was president of UEFA, will now regain access to that CHF2 million.

The payment was made to Platini by Blatter (FIFA’s president between 1998 and December 2015) for what both men alleged were consultancy services between 1998 and 2022. 

The prosecutors alleged that Platini was paid the CHF2 million by Blatter as compensation for consulting work without Blatter going through the proper payment channels, whereas both individuals have always said the payment was actually simply resolving Platini’s backdated salary eleven years ago – despite this being nine years after Platini finished his work at FIFA.

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Their argument has always been that since FIFA was unable to settle the entirety of the consultation fee owed to Platini at the time, it was backdated and the CHF2 million was simply the accumulated salary from four years of work that was still owed to the then-UEFA president.

Aside from the criminal court process, both Blatter and Platini were banned from further involvement in soccer by FIFA’s ethics committee in 2015 and have since had several attempts to reverse this ruling turned down.

This latest investigation into the payment (conducted by the Swiss attorney general) stemmed from late 2019, despite FIFA having laid its own internal charges against the pair seven years ago.

In 2019, a new prosecutor, Thomas Hildbrand, was appointed to lead investigations as part of a wider probe into corruption in international soccer, and the case was revived, leading to fresh questioning, which in turn led to the case being revived.

This led to both men being indicted, in November last year.

The payment originally came to light six years ago following a lengthy investigation into corruption and malpractice at FIFA, which has resulted, over the past few years, in dozens of convictions and charges of former high-ranking executives and soccer officials.

In the aftermath of the verdict earlier today, Platini said: “The truth has come to light during this trial and I deeply thank the judges of the tribunal for the independence of their decision.

“I keep saying it – my fight is a fight against injustice … In this case, there are culprits who did not appear during this trial …

“I will go all the way in my quest for truth.”

Blatter, meanwhile, commented: “I'm not speaking about FIFA, I'm not speaking about corruption, I'm speaking about me.

"I have done nothing wrong. I am clean with my conscious, I am clean in my spirit.”

At the time the money was transferred from FIFA to Platini with Blatter’s approval, Blatter was campaigning to be re-elected as president of the global governing body.

In Blatter’s re-election campaign, Platini was seen to hold key influence over how the European caucus voted, being the UEFA president.