Fifa probe: Raid on Paris offices

LAUSANNE • French authorities have seized documents from the country's football federation in connection with a Swiss investigation into the suspect payment former Fifa president Sepp Blatter made to Michel Platini.

The search was conducted on Tuesday, two days before Blatter's 80th birthday. Swiss officials were present as French investigators searched the French Football Federation (FFF) headquarters in Paris.

The office of Switzerland's attorney-general said the search was carried out "in connection with the criminal proceedings against Mr Joseph Blatter", which began in September.

The documents are in connection with that infamous 2 million Swiss franc (S$2.7 million) payment to Platini, a French national.

Switzerland suspects Blatter of "criminal mismanagement" in authorising a 2011 payment to Platini, the fallen head of European football .

Blatter said he was "very surprised" to learn of the search because he did not believe the FFF had documents related to the payment, which he and Platini claim was part of a legitimate oral contract.

Blatter said he was 'very surprised' to learn of the search because he did not believe the FFF had documents related to the payment.

Switzerland said it formally asked France for cooperation in the investigation on Jan 14. In a separate statement, the French justice ministry confirmed that the search "enabled the seizure of documents useful to the investigation" into the payment.

The doubts surrounding the infamous funds led Fifa to ban Blatter and Platini from football for six years.

In the Swiss case, Platini has been questioned with a status that falls between that of a witness and an accused.

"Mr Michel Platini's status in the proceedings has remained unchanged," the Swiss statement said.

Between 1999 and 2002, Platini worked for Fifa out of offices rented by the FFF in Paris. The clouds surrounding the payment centre on why Blatter paid Platini for this work a decade after it was completed. Both men have said the payment was deferred to ease the financial pressure Fifa faced at the time.

There has also been speculation that Blatter sent the money after his re-election as Fifa's president was backed by the Frenchman.

Platini's lawyers said that they were pleased with "this new step" as it brought their client closer to being exonerated.

"The sooner Swiss justice authorities finish their investigation, the sooner Michel Platini will be out of the tabloids where he doesn't belong," his lawyers said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Fifa probe: Raid on Paris offices'. Print Edition | Subscribe