Police have raided and searched the offices of the French football federation in Paris at the request of the Swiss authorities in a dramatic new twist in the criminal investigation into Sepp Blatter.
The deposed, disgraced and banned former president of world governing body FIFA was informed of the criminal investigation last year after being questioned in FIFA’s headquarters on leaving a meeting of the executive committee.
At the heart of the issue was a ‘disloyal payment’ of SFr2m which Blatter authorised FIFA should transfer to Michel Platini, the French president of European federation UEFA who was also a FIFA vice-president.
Just before Christmas both men were banned from football for ethics code breaches for six years. This was trimmed to six years each last month by the FIFA appeal committee. Both men have contested to protest their innocence and Platini has already registered an intention to appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Paris raid and search was confirmed in the following statement from the Office of the Swiss Attorney-General:
“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland required the mutual legal assistance of the French judicial authorities in connection with the criminal proceedings against Mr Joseph Blatter.
“Pursuant to that request for mutual legal assistance of January 14, 2016 and in close coordination with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, the French Financial Prosecution Office proceeded yesterday to a search of the offices of the French Football Federation in Paris with the latter’s consent. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) was present during the search.
“Documents were seized in connection with the suspected payment of CHF 2million that is inter alia the subject of the proceedings.
“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland thanks the French judicial authorities for their valuable support in this matter.”
A particular focus of interest was understood to be an office which Frenchman Platini is understood to have maintained in the FFF headquarters. He is considered by the Swiss authorities as being ‘between a witness and accused’ though no criminal proceedings have been opened against him.
Blatter, driven from FIFA office by the weight of corruption scandal swirling around the federation, worked as development director then general secretary and chief executive from 1975 to 1998. He then became president in succession to Brazilian Joao Havelange.
Last February 26 his reign was finally ended after the election of fellow Swiss Gianni Infantino as new president.
Platini is hoping to prove his innocence in time to reclaim the UEFA leadership and preside over the European Championship finals in France in June and July.