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After years of scandals alleging corruption at the highest levels of international soccer, FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, on Monday sanctioned the two most powerful men in the sport. Its ethics committee banned longtime FIFA president Joseph “Sepp” Blatter and vice president Michel Platini for eight years from all soccer-related activities.
The bans come into force immediately, meaning Blatter and Platini will not be allowed to participate in the vote for a new FIFA president in early 2016.
Both men have been accused of multiple misdeeds during their years running FIFA, which oversees the operation and funding of international soccer, but the ethics committee focused on one charge in particular: a payment of 2 million Swiss Francs (around $2 million), which Blatter authorized FIFA to pay to Platini in 2011.
The cash transfer came just three months before Blatter ran for, and won, a fourth term as FIFA president. Platini had been expected to oppose the Swiss functionary but, at the last minute, shifted to support Blatter. The suggestion is that the $2 million payment was a bribe to win Platini’s backing. Blatter claimed the money was for work Platini had done between 1999 and 2002, but was unable to produce a contract proving the claim and could not explain why, if it was for work done in 2002, the money was transferred to Platini nearly a decade late.
“Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr. Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment. His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber,” the committee said in a statement.
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The committee’s adjudicatory chamber, however, said it did not have sufficient evidence to prove the payment constituted bribery and corruption under FIFA’s own statutes, but that Blatter and Platini’s conduct constituted a breach of the association’s ban on officials offering or accepting gifts or other benefits. It added that Blatter violated FIFA’s conflict of interest statues and his fiduciary duties to FIFA.
FIFA banned Blatter for eight years and fined him $50,000. Platini was also found guilty of a conflict of interest, failing in his fiduciary duty to FIFA and other charges, though not of bribery or corruption. He was also banned for eight years from all soccer-related activities and fined $80,000. He is not required to return the $2 million payment.
Both men are expected to appeal the decision.
Alongside FIFA’s internal investigation, FIFA and its many executives are the subject of two separate criminal probes being carried out by the U.S. Justice Department and Swiss authorities.
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