Ex-FIFA chief Blatter 'optimistic' in grilling by Swiss prosecutor

AFP , Wednesday 11 Aug 2021

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter faces a fourth day or questioning by a Swiss prosecutor

Former world football chief Sepp Blatter remains "optimistic" Wednesday, his spokesman said, as he faces a fourth day of questioning by a Swiss prosecutor investigating a suspect FIFA payment to Michel Platini.

FIFA's ex-president Blatter is being investigated over a two million Swiss franc ($2.2 million, 1.85 million euro) payment in 2011 to Platini, who was then in charge of European football's governing body UEFA.

In final hearings in the investigation, Blatter has met with a federal prosecutor from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland for three consecutive days in Zurich, where FIFA has its headquarters.

Due to Blatter's fragile health, he can only stay at the hearing venue for a couple of hours maximum at a time.

After Wednesday's third session, his spokesman Thomas Renggli said afterwards that Blatter was finding the process hard going but would return again on Thursday for a fourth straight day of questioning.

"It's a little gruelling for him," Renggli told AFP.

"He is always having to say the same thing. The prosecutor does not want to accept that there was an oral contract between Blatter and Platini.

"Mr. Blatter is still optimistic but it is a bit tiring for him given his medical situation. But he will continue, he is fighting for his rights.

"This will continue on Thursday, maybe Friday."

Under the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure, in lengthy and complex proceedings, suspects "are questioned one last time before the investigation is concluded", the OAG said.

While Platini's final interview with the prosecutor was in March, Blatter's hearing was postponed to August due to the retired Swiss football administrator's health.

He spent two months in hospital in December and January after undergoing heart surgery.

Joseph "Sepp" Blatter was forced to stand down as FIFA president in 2015 and was banned by world football's governing for eight years, later reduced to six, over ethics breaches for authorising what prosecutors termed a "disloyal payment" to Platini -- in other words, one made in his own interests rather than FIFA's.

"The criminal proceedings against Joseph Blatter are now being conducted on suspicion of fraud, breach of trust and unfaithful business management," the OAG said in a statement ahead of Monday's hearing.

In his own statement ahead of the hearing, Blatter insisted the payment to Platini, 66, was above board.

"It was based on an oral contract that regulated Platini's advisory activities for FIFA between 1998 and 2002," he said.

"The process was correctly declared as a late payment of wages."

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