Platini's reason for late payment cuts no ice

ZURICH • Michel Platini claimed on Tuesday that he had to wait nine years for a 2 million Swiss franc (S$2.94 million) payment from Fifa because football's world governing body did not have the money.

Given Fifa's resources, the explanation for the long delay is unlikely to quell growing concerns over that payment for his work as an aide to Sepp Blatter.

Swiss prosecutors have launched a criminal inquiry, raiding Fifa offices and questioning Blatter and Platini last Friday. Platini had insisted that he was only a witness but Michael Lauber, the Swiss Attorney-General, said on Tuesday that the Uefa president is "in between a suspect and an accused person".

Platini insists that he was due the money for work between 1998 and 2002 but that Fifa's financial predicament at the time meant that the amount remained outstanding.

"Mr Blatter informed me when I started my role as his adviser that it was not initially possible to pay the totality of my salary because of Fifa's financial situation at that time," said the Frenchman.

"I never doubted, however, that the remaining amount owed to me would be paid eventually, so I did not actively pursue it. I even put the matter to the side for a while, before finally requesting that the outstanding balance was paid in 2011."

The timing of the final payment, in February 2011, has raised concerns because, in the spring of that year, Platini withdrew as a possible contender for the Fifa presidency and threw his support behind Blatter. Platini sought to dismiss any connection between the payment and the Fifa election.

"The fact that this payment was made a few months before the Fifa presidential election is irrelevant since I never had any plans of becoming a candidate," he said. "I was extremely happy to be re-elected as Uefa president at the Uefa congress in Paris in March of 2011."

Yet he did not explain why it was in 2011 that he suddenly remembered to chase Fifa for the money that had been owed for nine years.

And while it is true that Fifa suffered financially around the turn of the millennium with the collapse of ISL, its marketing partner, and was braced to make a deficit, it still had a surplus in its accounts from 1999 to 2002 and thereafter.

In his 2002 financial report, Blatter declared: "The announcement of a substantial revenue surplus of SFr 115 million for the period from 1999 to 2002 and the generally sound financial situation with a strong equity basis of SFr 151 million were well received around the world."

As investigations continue, Platini is seeking to keep alive his damaged hopes of succeeding the 79-year-old Blatter as Fifa president. He claimed that he was the victim of unjustified criticism.

"I have known for a long time that I would be the target of many unfounded attacks and I am conscious that these attacks will continue until the Fifa elections take place," he said. "There is no doubt about my integrity."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2015, with the headline 'Platini's reason for late payment cuts no ice'. Print Edition | Subscribe