Fifa moves to recover Platini payment

Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Uefa president Michel Platini look on during the Team Seminar ahead of the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 World Cup in July 2015 (by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Fifa is set to take legal action to reclaim CHF2m (€1.8m/$2.04m) paid to former Uefa president Michel Platini, an episode that led to lengthy bans from football governance for both Platini and ex-Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Mukul Mudgal, a retired Indian high court judge who is chairman of Fifa’s governance committee, wrote to Alasdair Bell, deputy secretary general of world football’s governing body, saying the body has passed a resolution over the 2011 payment, which was exposed in 2015 as having been approved by Blatter.

“The Fifa administration (should) take the necessary steps before the relevant authorities in Switzerland against both Mr. Blatter and Mr. Platini with a view to ensuring that the CHF 2 million unduly paid by Mr. Blatter to Mr. Platini is returned to Fifa (together with interest, at the appropriate rate) and the disciplinary fines and costs imposed are recovered,” Mudgal wrote in the November 25 letter seen by the Associated Press news agency.

The latest development comes after Platini last month said he was taking legal action against European football’s governing body in an effort to secure a substantial amount of back pay, along with bonus and legal fees.

The move by the former France captain came after his four-year suspension from world football ended in October, effectively making him free to return to the business of the sport. He is said to be seeking to reclaim about €7.2m ($8m), including €5.5m in back pay.

Any return to football governance would likely mean that Platini pays a CHF 60,000 fine that is three years overdue and would also be pursued by Fifa legal action. Platini began targeting a return to football in May 2018 after Swiss federal prosecutors confirmed he was not being charged as part of an investigation into possible financial wrongdoing. The former head of Uefa was banned by Fifa’s Executive Committee in December 2015, whilst running to replace Blatter at the head of the world game.

Fifa opted to ban both Blatter and Platini in relation to an incident in 2011 where Blatter approved a payment of CHF2m from Fifa to Platini for work done a decade earlier. No criminal case was ever opened against Platini.

Platini’s eight-year ban from world football was initially reduced to six years by Fifa’s Appeals Committee. In May 2016, Platini resigned as president of Uefa after he failed in his latest bid to overturn the ban, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport instead opting to reduce his suspension from six to four years.

In July 2017, the Swiss Federal Tribunal, the highest legal institution in the country, rejected another appeal from the 64 year old, stating that the ban did “not appear to be manifestly excessive.” Platini’s Fifa suspension ended on October 6.

Commenting on the latest development in the story, Platini’s lawyer, Vincent Solari, told the AFP news agency that the action amounted to “harassment” of his client. “It is obviously an announcement whose sole purpose is to continue to try to bring discredit on my client,” Solari said. “It is clear that Fifa’s claims are totally unfounded, as also attested by the fact that the agreement concerning this payment has never been invalidated by Fifa.”

Blatter has also maintained that the payment in question was legal. “I do not see how Fifa can take legal action,” he said. “This is a salary payment with the necessary withholding of social charges. This has passed through the Fifa accounts. This payment was validated by all of the financial control bodies of Fifa, external and domestic.”

In December 2016, Blatter lost a bid to overturn his six-year ban imposed by football’s global governing body after CAS dismissed his appeal. Blatter led Fifa for 17 years before resigning in June 2015, after a number of key football officials, including several former Fifa Executive Committee members, were indicted in the US on corruption charges.

Although Blatter was not one of those that was arrested, he became embroiled in the scandal when Fifa opted to ban both him, and Platini, from all football activities in December 2015. In February 2016, Blatter lodged an appeal to the Fifa Appeal Committee in an effort to clear his name, but was unsuccessful with the attempt, and a month later filed an appeal with the CAS, requesting the decision be reversed and he be acquitted of all ethics charges related to the case.

A Swiss criminal proceeding was also opened against Blatter in September 2015 for alleged financial misconduct, but no charges have been made.