Trial against Blatter and Platini: the whole case is shaking

It will be exciting in the process of a two million franc payment between Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini. The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (BA) is charging the duo with this payment. The accusation: It is incomprehensible and fraudulent. But on Friday, two former top employees of the world football association and the Europa-Union said before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona in favor of the former presidents of Fifa and Uefa that they had verbally agreed on a consulting contract for Platini in the amount of one million Swiss francs per annum over four years.

Now the case is shaking enormously. And that applies even more to the explosive suspicion behind the procedure, which is: How and why did the BA come up with this million-dollar payment so quickly after the raids on Fifa in May 2015? So quickly that she was able to open a criminal investigation against Blatter/Platini in September, which overthrew world football. Instead of the clear favorite for the throne, Platini, who had been banned because of the investigation, his general secretary at Uefa, Gianni Infantino, rose from nowhere to become Fifa president. Infantino, who then held all sorts of discreet meetings with the BA boss at the time, Michael Lauber. And against which Lauber’s authorities kindly did not investigate when they opened criminal proceedings in 2016 for a disreputable Uefa television contract – a contract that Infantino had signed as the responsible Uefa director. Because of their secret meeting, the last of which neither of them can remember, investigations are carried out against Infantino and Lauber; the federal prosecutor has therefore even lost his office.

This is now the dilemma of Fifa and the federal prosecutor’s office in Bellinzona: The rapid investigation of a BA against Blatter/Platini, which is otherwise only conspicuous due to bankruptcies and breakdowns, must be seen as a legal highlight – and it must not show any closeness between Lauber’s BA and Infantino’s Fifa.

Who gets bribed by their own employer? Is that possible?

This is complicated because as early as July 8, 2015, a few weeks after the raid, a close confidante of Infantino was with Lauber: namely Rinaldo Arnold, a canton lawyer from Valais and, conveniently, a school friend of the current Fifa boss. From then on Arnold appeared as a fierce advocate of Infantino at the BA, he even engineered two of the later secret meetings (and took part in them himself). At the same time, good things were done to him: at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he posed with crowned heads in the VIP box. Fifa also had a lucrative post ready for Arnold when this weird liaison was discovered. In this respect, a key question is: What did Lauber have to discuss with Infantino’s intimates back in July 2015?

That is completely in the dark. The participants in the meeting made widely differing statements publicly and to the internally investigating supervisory authority over the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (AB-BA). Which is why the AB-BA formulated the suspicion that the mysterious date could have touched Infantino’s interests. That would be the GAU for Fifa and BA.

The strange situation that the then chief investigator of the BA presented in Bellinzona on Thursday fits in with all of this. Olivier Thormann testified that during a home visit to Fifa in May 2015, he demanded that the financial documents on the then Fifa executive members be handed over. Fifa’s chief financial officer, Markus Kattner, approached him separately and gave key indications of a questionable payment by Fifa to Platini – that is, the two-million payment that is now being negotiated in court. So is Kattner the whistleblower who has been wanted for years and who secretly overthrew the Blatter/Platini duo?

Kattner was always close to Blatter. And he was an adversary to Infantino. The story would be the ideal solution for Fifa and BA – but strange: both parties have vehemently opposed Kattner’s interrogation. Why? You’d be off the hook if he confirmed Thormann’s version. The court summoned Kattner as a witness at short notice, and he will testify on Tuesday. The suspicion is that he will contradict Thormann’s account.

Markus Kattner will testify before the court.

(Photo: imago sports photography; x/imago/ITAR-TASS)

It is good that the court is skeptical. Because: If Kattner went to Thormann at the time to report a questionable payment of millions – then he would have reported himself. As finance director, he had checked and approved the transfer of millions. If Thormann’s version is shaken by Kattner, even exposed as a bluff – yes, then it would be tight for Fifa and BA. The court should finally find out what Infantino’s friend Arnold had to discuss with Lauber in July 2015.

The investigative approach of the federal prosecutor is highly original

In addition, the court could discuss another core issue that has not played a role so far. The BA investigation at the time was not initially about payments between Blatter and Platini – it was about buying votes for the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar) World Cup awards. You buy votes from the sports officials who have a vote. Such things were more common at major sporting events, in general: corrupt behavior is known throughout the business world.

Only: who is bribed by their own employer? Is that possible? The BA’s investigative approach, which allegedly wanted to get on the trail of the World Cup bribes in Fifa of all places, is highly original. Is it remotely conceivable that for a World Cup tournament the candidate countries would not bribe officials in the usual ways – offshore accounts, advertising contracts, art gifts, jobs for relatives – but that Fifa would do this itself, internally, with its own money and also do so in a documented manner in your own bookkeeping?

Bellinzona should end a long fairy tale. Otherwise only Netflix and Co. will help the audience. There could be great interest in such a bizarre judicial farce in the middle of Europe.