Michel Platini now a formal suspect in Swiss case

Michel Platini in action for France against Hungary in a 1986 Mexico World Cup first round match in Leon. (AFP)
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Updated 26 June 2020

Michel Platini now a formal suspect in Swiss case

  • Swiss federal prosecutors extended their open criminal proceedings into then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter to include Platini
  • Platini is suspected of being an accomplice to criminal mismanagement, of misappropriation and an act of forgery

GENEVA: French soccer great Michel Platini has been formally placed under investigation in Switzerland in relation to a $2 million payment he got from FIFA in 2011.
Swiss federal prosecutors this month extended their open criminal proceedings into then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s role in the payment to include Platini, according to a document seen Friday by The Associated Press.
Platini, who was the president of European soccer body UEFA at the time, is suspected of being an accomplice to criminal mismanagement, of misappropriation and an act of forgery, the document states.
The former France national team captain submitted invoices to FIFA in January 2011 seeking payment for an uncontracted additional salary from working as a presidential adviser in Blatter’s first term, from 1998-2002. He was paid the next month.
Five different courts and tribunals — including the FIFA ethics committee, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the European Court of Human Rights — have ruled against Platini since Swiss prosecutors revealed the allegation in September 2015.
Platini and Blatter, who were both banned by FIFA, deny wrongdoing and have not been charged by Swiss prosecutors. Both were questioned at FIFA headquarters five years ago.
The office of Switzerland’s attorney general confirmed the proceedings against Platini and said “various hearings are planned at (our offices) in Bern during the third quarter of 2020.”
The prosecution office said it was unable to give any timetable for how the case could develop.
“I have total confidence in Swiss justice,” Platini said in a statement. “I am once again at their disposal and am absolutely serene.”
Platini’s four-year ban expired in October and he has been planning to return to the sport. He turned 65 last week.
The long-standing allegation was revived two years after Platini said Swiss prosecutors told him he had been cleared of wrongdoing.
However, a new prosecutor was appointed to lead some investigations last year in the wider Swiss probe of corruption allegations in international soccer that began in 2014.
Prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand’s name appears on official documents relating to Platini’s case that have been seen by the AP.
Hildbrand also extended criminal proceedings against Blatter this month for suspected criminal mismanagement to include a $1 million loan FIFA made to the Trinidad and Tobago soccer federation in 2010.
That money went into the control of then-FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who was campaigning in the Caribbean nation’s general election at the time. Warner has since been banned by FIFA and is fighting extradition to the United States, where he was indicted on financial corruption charges five years ago.
Two more former FIFA officials — Jérôme Valcke as secretary general and Markus Kattner as finance director — were named as “accused persons” in the Trinidad payment investigation. Both were fired by FIFA in 2016.
Switzerland attorney general Michael Lauber is no longer in charge of the wider FIFA investigation, which has involved at least 25 open criminal proceedings and one abandoned trial.
Lauber was recused from the case last year by the Swiss federal criminal court in fallout from a disciplinary case against him over meetings he did not disclose with current FIFA president Gianni Infantino in 2016 and 2017. Infantino was elected to lead FIFA in February 2016 during a chaotic period after Platini, his former boss at UEFA, and Blatter were banned.

Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

Updated 4 min 17 sec ago

Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

  • Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment

SPIELBERG, South Africa: Max Verstappen will seek a hat trick of home wins for Red Bull and an early lead in the drivers championship at this weekend’s delayed and somewhat surreal season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

For everyone involved, the race will be an unprecedented experience — the calendar is unknown beyond the first eight races in Europe in 10 weeks, all to be run behind closed doors and severe limitations introduced with a new paddock protocol forbidding meetings.

As racing returns, the COVID-19 virus remains in circulation, which requires all participants to be tested before travel to Austria on private chartered jets, ongoing tests, the separation of teams and car crews into “bubbles” and controlled hotels.

Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment, there will be no sponsors, no guests and only a limited number of accredited broadcast and written news media.

Journalists, limited to a dozen instead of 300 or more, have to pass a test within 72 hours in advance of arrival and will not be allowed to leave the media center.

All interviews and news conferences will take place by video.

The teams will be kept isolated, based in tents with awnings instead of their usual grand motorhomes — and there is expected to be a synchronized taking the knee by the drivers on the grid, to support Black Lives Matter, ahead of Sunday’s race.

Afterwards, there will be no podium ceremony.

When the race begins, it will end the longest gap between races in the sport since 1962, but with two successive races in Austria and then one in Hungary, the pressure will be immediate and intense.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “There’s been a long drought. We all do this because we love it. We’ve missed it, so we can’t wait to start.”

“It’s going to be exciting and intense. The races come thick and fast.”

Dutch driver Verstappen, who bullied his way past Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc to triumph in front of a mass of his “orange army” of fans last year, says he is unfazed by high expectations or the absence of spectators at the Red Bull Ring, a remote and compact circuit in the Styrian Alps.

“I am not thinking about a hat trick,” he said.

“The most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and to perform at my best.

“I never consider myself as a favorite because, actually, when you look at the track, it’s not even our best one, but last year it was very warm and we were good at keeping the engine cool.

“So I don’t expect an easy win. I think Mercedes will be very strong again and they are the ones to beat.”

Verstappen, who has kept a low profile during the lockdown, delivered three wins and eight podiums last year as Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth title with Mercedes, who this year seek an unprecedented seventh constructors’ and drivers’ double in succession.

Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon will have an upgraded Honda engine package, developed since the coronavirus lockdown ended, to boost them at the contest in the Styrian Alps where the 800-meter altitude can affect engine performance.

Mercedes will also have an updated package while Ferrari, struggling to match them in pre-season testing, announced Tuesday that they are updating their cars for the third race in Hungary.

Hamilton this year bids for a record-equalling seventh drivers title as he campaigns passionately for greater diversity, and against racism, in the sport.

“We are preparing the best way we can for what is going to be the most difficult season that F1 and all of us have experienced,” he said in a video from the team, which — at his prompting — is running black livery this year to support equality and diversity.