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INTERVIEW: Platini has "clear conscience" over FIFA payment

AFP , Wednesday 30 Sep 2015
Michel Platini
UEFA Chief Michel Platini (Photo: Reuters)

UEFA chief Michel Platini has told AFP in an exclusive interview that he did nothing wrong in accepting a 1.8 million euro ($2 million) payment from FIFA and that he was "still determined" to stand for the presidency of the troubled world organisation.

His comments came after Swiss prosecutors had accused embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter of making a "disloyal payment" to Platini in 2011 for work he carried out between 1998 and 2002.

Question: Can you explain exactly what the work undertaken by yourself on FIFA's behalf from 1998 à 2002 consisted of?

Reply: I was employed by FIFA as a special advisor to president Sepp Blatter, working on various matters related to football, such as the international football calendar. It was a full-time job.

Question: How were the payments staggered? Was a first tranche paid before 2011?

Reply: Like I explained to the Swiss authorities, I received only part of the agreed salary between 1998 to 2002. This occurred because at the time, FIFA informed me that they would not be able to pay me the total agreed amount. Of course all the moneys received at the time were declared to the pertinent authorities.

Question: How do you explain that a final payment was made to you as late as 2011, nine years after your work was completed ?

Reply: Mr Blatter informed me when I started my role as his advisor that it was not initially possible to pay the totality of my salary because of FIFA’s financial situation at that time. I never doubted, however, that the remaining amount owed to me would be paid eventually, so I did not actively pursue it. I even put the matter to the side for a while, before finally requesting that the outstanding balance was paid in 2011.

Question: Have you already paid taxes on these payments in Switzerland?

Reply: Yes I declared all moneys received to the Swiss authorities and paid all tax due.

Question: How do you respond to those who say that this last payment came in the year that Blatter was elected for the fourth time, with certain media deducing from this that Blatter paid what he owed you for not standing against him?

Reply: Like I have said, the outstanding amount for the work I did was paid when I finally requested it to FIFA. The fact that this payment was made a few months before the FIFA Presidential elections is irrelevant since I never had any plans of becoming a candidate. As a matter of fact, I was extremely happy to be re-elected as UEFA President at the UEFA congress in Paris in March of 2011.

Question: Are you worried about being suspended by the FIFA Ethics Committee? Have you been contacted by the FIFA Ethics Committee on this subject?

Reply: Actually it was I who personally took the initiative to contact the Ethics Committee on Monday to tell them that I was at their full disposal to answer any question or to clarify any situation. I don’t fear a suspension because I have done nothing wrong.

Question: Have Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation against you?

Reply: Absolutely not. I was heard last week by the Swiss Authorities only as a person providing information and I cooperated fully.

Question: What is your state of mind today?

Reply: I am calm and totally serene since I don’t have reasons to be concerned. I have also received many messages of support from many people around the world who trust me and who hope I can soon restore credibility to the governance of world football.

Question: Have you been hurt by this speculation? Do you expect other controversies or even attacks given that the election will only happen in February 2016?

Reply: I have known for a long time that I would be the target of many unfounded attacks and I am conscious that these attacks will continue until the FIFA elections take place. I have to say, however, that I am disappointed with the speculation in some media, especially the one coming from a French Tabloid that talks about there being "doubt" around me. There is no doubt about my integrity. I have done nothing wrong. That is why I have made myself fully available to cooperate with the relevant bodies and authorities to clarify whatever may be necessary.

Question: Do you think it will be possible one day to re-establish a relationship of trust between football fans and FIFA?

Reply: I am still determined to present myself as a candidate for the FIFA Presidency so I can introduce the governance reforms that are necessary to restore the order and credibility to world football. I would also like to put football at the heart of FIFA once again and make sure that we continue to develop this beautiful sport around the planet.

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