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Ex-FIFA boss Blatter says ‘not afraid’ of going to trial

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Former president of world football’s governing body FIFA Sepp Blatter waves as he leaves the building of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland to attend a hearing in Zurich on August 9. AFP

Ex-FIFA boss Blatter says ‘not afraid’ of going to trial

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says he will continue fighting fraud allegations, and does not fear his case possibly going to trial, he told a Swiss weekly in an interview to be published Sunday.

Former world football chief Blatter, 85, faced four days of questioning by a federal prosecutor earlier this month in a long-running probe into a suspected fraudulent payment a decade ago.

In the case that shook world sport, Blatter is being investigated over a two million Swiss franc ($2.2 million) payment to Michel Platini in 2011, who was then in charge of European football’s governing body UEFA.

Blatter was forced to stand down as FIFA president in 2015 and was banned by FIFA for eight years, later reduced to six, over ethics breaches for authorising what prosecutors termed a “disloyal payment”.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland, which has said Blatter faces “suspicion of fraud, breach of trust and unfaithful business management,” has yet to announce whether it will indict him or dismiss the case.

Blatter, who has always maintained the payment to Platini was above board, told the Le Matin Dimanche weekly he was not worried.

“I am not afraid of a trial,” he said in the interview, due to be published Sunday, adding that he had heard from a number of lawyers that the case against him was not credible.

In a statement issued before the hearing with the prosecutor began earlier this month, Blatter reiterated that the payment had been “based on an oral contract that regulated Platini’s advisory activities for FIFA between 1998 and 2002.”

“The payment was delayed because FIFA was initially unable to pay out the entire amount – and Platini only made the claim in 2010.”

Blatter, who spent two months in hospital in December and January after undergoing heart surgery, acknowledged though that he remained weak and could not undertake a trial immediately.

“Physically, I am not yet ready,” he told Le Matin Dimanche.

He said doctors had written him off twice while in hospital, saying there was nothing more they could do for him, but he held on.

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