LAUSANNE, Switzerland â€” Sepp Blatter was “reckless” when he paid $2 million to Michel Platini in a transaction that led both to be banned from world soccer, according to a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling.
The former FIFA president also bypassed the body’s executive committee to extend Platini’s pension plan by four years â€” unlawfully adding more than $1 million to the former UEFA president’s retirement fund.
Details of the hearing in August were revealed in a newly published 68-page verdict written by CAS judges to explain why they dismissed Blatter’s appeal to overturn a six-year ban in December.
As an executive committee member since 2002, Platini was due a pension of 3 per cent of his final FIFA stipend â€” $300,000 in 2015 when he was first banned â€” for each year of service. It would be paid annually for an equal number of years. By unilaterally supporting Platini’s request to start the plan in 1998, Blatter unlawfully created a pension fund for his former protege of $2.6 million in 2015 instead of $1.52 million, the judges noted.
“The credit awarded to Mr. Platini therefore certainly amounted to a gift as he was not entitled to such credit,” the three judges said, concluding that a six-year ban for the now 81-year-old Blatter is “not disproportionate and, indeed, reasonable and fair.”
“The standard of ethical conduct required under the (FIFA code of ethics) should be and should be seen to be applied to the FIFA President as rigorously as if not more rigorously than that applied to anyone else,” the CAS panel wrote.
The full judgment confirms details never published by the FIFA ethics and appeals committees which previously judged Blatter, the long-time president, and Platini, his expected successor.
Three separate judging panels agreed there was no verbal agreement or valid contract for Platini to receive backdated salary in 2011 for working as Blatter’s presidential adviser from 1998-2002. The soccer officials said they agreed Platini should get 1 million Swiss francs annually, but later signed a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs to ensure he did not earn more than FIFA’s then secretary general.
Platini asked for 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) â€” not the 2.8 million Swiss francs he was allegedly owed, the court noted â€” in 2010 “upon learning of ‘golden parachutes’ received by (former senior FIFA officials) Mr. Urs Linsi and Mr. Jerome Champagne,” the CAS ruling said.
“(Platini) went to see either the Secretary General or Finance Director of FIFA to say ‘you know FIFA owes me money,'” the ruling said.
By helping force Champagne out of FIFA as Blatter’s trusted international relations director, Platini indirectly earned the French former diplomat a seven-figure severance for his January 2010 exit.
The ruling stated that Blatter testified to recalling his verbal deal with Platini, but had “forgotten that they had a written contract (in 1999).”
“The Panel considers Mr. Blatter’s conduct in the matter as FIFA President reckless, or at least profoundly careless, as he approved the payment without checking the written contract, without asking his employees for the written contract to be checked or doing any verification whatsoever,” the judges said.
Platini, who attended the hearing as a witness, also seemed not to check his contract before requesting money that was paid in 2011, when Blatter was campaigning to win re-election.
“Mr. Platini said that he had not realized he had made a mistake about how much money was owed to him until the Swiss prosecutor showed him a copy of the August 1999 contract in September 2015,” the court said.
Swiss federal police questioned Blatter and Platini at FIFA, one day after opening proceedings against the FIFA president for suspected criminal mismanagement. Platini was described then as “between a witness and an accused person.”
Blatter has not been formally charged by Switzerland’s attorney general. He is also a stated target of an American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA officials.
Platini is serving a four-year ban after winning a two-year cut in his sanction from a separate CAS panel. The ban removed the former France national team captain from the UEFA presidency and the February 2016 election race to succeed Blatter.
In the ruling, CAS also noted the “habitual” bonus culture of FIFA at the time of the World Cup hosting votes in December 2010, when Russia was awarded the 2018 tournament and Qatar was given the 2022 edition.
Two days before the vote in Zurich, the FIFA finance committee approved a $200,000 annual bonus for each executive committee member to supplement then-stipends of $100,000, according to CAS.
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press