France seizes documents in probe targeting Blatter

(FILES) This file photo taken on June 02, 2015 shows FIFA President Sepp Blatter looking down during a press conference at the headquarters of the world's football governing body in Zurich. The battle for the FIFA presidency on February 26, 2016 has turned into a gruelling round-the-globe marathon for the five candidates but observers say they are avoiding the real problems facing the scandal-infected world football body. / AFP / VALERIANO DI DOMENICO

(FILES) This file photo taken on June 02, 2015 shows FIFA President Sepp Blatter looking down during a press conference at the headquarters of the world’s football governing body in Zurich.<br />The battle for the FIFA presidency on February 26, 2016 has turned into a gruelling round-the-globe marathon for the five candidates but observers say they are avoiding the real problems facing the scandal-infected world football body. / AFP / VALERIANO DI DOMENICO

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

The search was conducted 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 cooperation 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 on Wednesday.

– 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 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 US authorities, arrested seven FIFA officials at a luxury Zurich hotel.

The US 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 earlier this week vowed to clear his name before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“One can not 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 told SID, an AFP subsidiary, in an interview.

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



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