FIFA’s once-all-powerful football chief is finally being prosecuted for corruption. But Sepp Blatter’s daughter tells Correspondent.World: ‘My honest father was forced out by a conspiracy.’2 November 2021
FIFA President Sepp Blatter resigned in 2016 to save world football from financial ruin and now “feels relieved and free“, his daughter and chief adviser Corinne Blatter-Andenmatten, who is also her father’s chief adviser, told Correspondent.World.
He and Michel Platini, the former boss of European football and megastar player, have now been charged with fraud over unlawfully arranging a payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.19 million), the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland said.
Blatter’s daughter denied her father had left office because of any criminal allegations against him. “He resigned for the good of football.… He told me he was afraid that, if Fifa lost more credibility, sponsors would run away,” she told Correspondent.World in the remote Swiss town of Visp.
She said her father had wanted to protect FIFA’s injection of funding into smaller nations. “This would not happen if there was no more money.“
We met up in the Bistro Napoleon owned by her husband Dominic.
A close personal adviser to her father, who speaks to him virtually every day, Ms Blatter said her father felt the media campaign against him had also led to his sudden career-ending resignation.
“The media turned against him,” said Corinne. “It was making his job impossible.”
Ms Blatter said her father felt he had done nothing criminal. She said besides the Swiss investigation, her father also rejected efforts to indict him being made in the United States. She said the FBI has no grounds to investigate him.
“He is not afraid at all of being prosecuted by the Americans. He is a Swiss citizen. He has never broken any American law, or any other law.
“I’m sure of that because I know my father. He is the most honest person you can find.”
She suggested his generosity of nature may have been misinterpreted. “As far as I know him, he is not corrupt. He is determined, yes, and generous. He would give his last shirt to help someone. And he takes time to listen to anyone, whether he’s a worker or a bank director.”
The Blatters’ home village nestles in the gorgeous Alpine valley where she and her father grew up – about half an hour by a winding mountain road to the Italian border. The villagers share a local dialect and a subculture of solidarity, with no-one willing to condemn their most famous son.
“I have known him and played football with him over there since we were kids,” said Niklaus Furger, president of the Gemeinde, or community, comprising 8 thousand people.
Photos of football players going back decades adorn some of the walls, along with a red-ribboned plaque.
Ms Blatter cast aspersions at the motives of her father’s critics. She said Europe‘s football boss, former French megastar Michel Platini, was part of a “conspiracy“ to grab power at her father’s expense.
“It had to be a conspiracy. During the congress Michel Platini`s words were absolutely below the belt. Don’t tell me that there was not a conspiracy. You have to respect the person and Platini did not respect the person – Sepp Blatter.”
She refused to answer questions about whether her father should have acted to prevent the corruption inside FIFA that led to the arrest of seven executive members of his Board. The men were snatched in early morning raids just before the FIFA congress in Zurich.
Blatter had said he was going to “go on and on like a mountain goat“.
Yet he announced his resignation a few weeks after being re-elected.
Ms Blatter, who lived five years in Australia and runs a language school, is his only daughter – from his first of his three marriages.
“I love my father. Being there for him, helping him, showing him the good sides of private life.”
Ms Blatter-Andenmatten said Mr Platini, the former French football star who became president of European football’s governing body Uefa, had plotted to oust her father.
“It had to be a conspiracy. During the congress, Michel Platini’s words were absolutely below the belt. Don’t tell me that there was not a conspiracy,” she said. “I know my father. He is the most honest person you can find.”
Blatter and Platini were indicted on Tuesday 2 November 2021 following a six-year investigation into the payment that Blatter authorised to be made from world soccer’s governing body FIFA to Platini in 2011. Blatter and Platini said the payment was for backdated salary.
“This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini,” Switzerland’s OAG said.
The Swiss investigation was opened in 2015 amid a series of scandals which engulfed FIFA. The affair led to a FIFA ethics investigation, following which both men were banned from the game and forced to leave their positions.
The OAG accused Blatter and Platini of “fraud, in the alternative of misappropriation, in the further alternative of criminal mismanagement as well as of forgery of a document.” Platini, who captained France to victory in the 1984 European Championship, was also charged as an accomplice.
Blatter, 85, and Platini were both banned in 2016 from soccer for six years over the payment, made with Blatter’s approval for work done a decade earlier. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
“I look forward to the trial before the Federal Criminal Court with optimism and I hope that this story will come to an end and that all the facts will be dealt with properly,” Blatter said in a statement.
“Regarding the payment of the sum of two million francs from FIFA to Michel Platini, I can only repeat myself: It was based on an oral contract that regulated Platini’s advisory activities for FIFA between 1998 and 2002,” he added.
Blatter said the payment had been delayed because FIFA was not able to pay the entire amount and that Platini only made his claim for the money in 2010.
The former FIFA president said that the payments had been approved by “all responsible FIFA bodies” and that Platini had paid tax on the amount “at his Swiss place of residence”.
Platini said he had only heard news of the trial through media reports.
“These methods are an extension of the prosecutor’s relentlessness to unduly implicate me in a case in which my entire good faith has been recognised. I fully challenge these unfounded and unfair accusations,” he said.
Platini’s lawyer Dominic Nellen said he was confident the former France and Juventus midfielder would prove his innocence.
“It is shocking that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office brought charges against my client without hearing the witnesses we have requested during the procedure,” he said.
“From the defence’s point of view, it is clear that the investigation should have been discontinued long ago. There are enough witness reports and documents in the case files that prove my client’s innocence.
“I am 100% confident that we will be able to prove my client’s innocence in court,” he added.
The OAG said its investigation revealed that Platini worked as a consultant for then FIFA president Blatter between 1998-2002 and that an annual compensation of 300,000 Swiss francs was agreed in a written contract.
The OAG said Platini had sent an invoice and had been paid in full but the 66-year-old former France international continued to demand payment.
“Over eight years after the termination of his advisory activity, Platini demanded a payment in the amount of two million Swiss francs,” the OAG said.
“With Blatter’s involvement, FIFA made a payment to Platini in said amount at the beginning of 2011. The evidence gathered by the OAG has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis.”
At the time of Blatter’s resignation a Swiss newspaper, Blick am Abend, ran a front-page photo montage supposedly showing Blatter grimacing and trying pull prison bars apart. “Will Blatter end up in a Swiss jail?” was its headline.
That sounds today less like speculation and more like a prediction.