French Prosecutors Search Soccer Office Over Blatter Paymentby
Documents seized in relation to payment of 2 million francs
Investigation comes after request from Swiss authorities
French prosecutors searched the offices of the country’s football federation and seized documents as part of an investigation into former FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s 2 million Swiss-franc ($2 million) payment to ex-European soccer chief Michel Platini.
The search by the French financial prosecutor Tuesday followed a Jan. 14 request for assistance by Switzerland, the Swiss Attorney General said Wednesday in an e-mailed statement.
Blatter, who oversaw world soccer for 17 years, and ex-UEFA President Platini were suspended from all football activities Oct. 8 after Swiss prosecutors opened a probe into the 2011 payment. Appeals filed by both men to overturn their suspensions have since been rebuffed, though FIFA last month cut their bans from eight years to six.
Blatter said he was “surprised” by the raids. “The payment to Mr. Platini was made by FIFA through a private account’ belonging to Platini in Switzerland and not through the French Football Federation or the UEFA, Blatter said in an e-mailed statement.
Blatter and Platini have denied wrongdoing, saying the payment fulfilled an oral contract between the two for services Platini, a former star of the French national team, provided to FIFA from 1998 through 2002.
Platini’s lawyers said in a statement that this new development was welcome as “the sooner Swiss justice completes its investigation, the sooner Michel Platini will be released from a situation in which he doesn’t belong.”
A person who answered the phone at the French Football Federation said to try back Friday when a spokesman would be back. The French Financial Prosecution Office confirmed details of the raid in an e-mailed statement, declining to comment further.
Gianni Infantino, a European soccer official, was elected last month to replace Blatter as FIFA president. Platini, Infantino’s former boss, was widely seen as the front-runner for the top job in soccer until his suspension.