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Former FIFA Officials Face Fraud Charges Over Secret Payment

More than six years after their ouster amid a mushrooming soccer corruption scandal, the former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and a one-time ally were indicted on fraud charges on Tuesday by the authorities in Switzerland, who accused the men of arranging a secret $2 million payment.

The office of Switzerland’s attorney general accused Blatter of unlawfully arranging the $2 million payment in 2011 to Michel Platini, who was then the head of European soccer’s governing body, UEFA. The criminal charges follow a yearslong investigation into the payment, which came to light in the aftermath of a sprawling United States Department of Justice indictment that revealed corrupt practices at FIFA dating back at least two decades.

The investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of dozens of powerful officials and marketing executives on charges that included racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Blatter was not charged at the time, even as the scandal brought down most of FIFA’s top leadership.

The $2 million payment to Platini came as Blatter faced a challenge for the FIFA presidency from a Gulf billionaire. Blatter and Platini both maintain the money was related to work that Platini, the captain of France’s 1984 European championship-winning team, did for Blatter after he was elected FIFA president for the first time in 1998.

Both Blatter and Platini already have been sanctioned for the payment by FIFA’s own disciplinary system, though their original bans were later reduced on appeal.

Blatter and Platini were accused by the Swiss authorities on Tuesday of criminal of fraud, criminal mismanagement and forgery. Prosecutors said their investigation found the payment to Platini was made “without a legal basis.”

“This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini,” the statement said.

The Swiss indictment against Blatter, 85, comes as the former soccer leader battles ill health. He has been hospitalized several times since being forced out of his leadership post.

The Swiss attorney general’s statement announcing the charges did not say when a trial would be held. Blatter said he was optimistic about clearing his name, using a statement to repeat his claim that the payment was based on a verbal contract with Platini and that it had been delayed because of financial constraints at FIFA at the time it was agreed.

“The operation was correct as a late-wage payment,” Blatter said. A spokesman for Platini did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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