In the opening hours of the operation, Sepp Blatter was still in good spirits. “The sun is shining and I’m in a good mood,” he said upon arrival at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona. Before going into the courtroom, the former president of the World Football Association (FIFA) briefly met his friend and old enemy Michel Platini in a small room, and patting him confidently on the back. When the judge in the regulatory bloc asked him to testify, he responded in Blatter’s classic, charming line.
But when all the initial questions were cleared four hours later and the substantive part was about to begin, the 86-year-old felt noticeably worse. In fact, Blatter was supposed to make his statement on Wednesday in the process about an ominous amount of two million francs from 2011. But he was unable to do so due to health reasons. “Supreme Court, I’m not okay,” he said. He has a complaint that “he can’t breathe properly either. I don’t see myself in a position to respond.” So the day of the trial is over, the questioning has been cancelled, and it is now scheduled to take place Thursday morning.
The trial has been taking place in Bellinzona since Wednesday and is scheduled to run until June 22. The Swiss Attorney General (BA) accuses Blatter and Platini of fraud on the FIFA account and forging documents. With incorrect information and a bogus bill, they deceived responsible officials of the World Federation in such a way that FIFA, led by Blatter, unfairly enriched Platini in 2011. She paid the then UEFA president 2 million francs, and also paid social security contributions of 229,126 francs. The BA does not provide any information in the indictment about the alleged motive for the payment. The two former officials dismissed the allegations, explaining that it was an additional boost to a consulting job from 1998 to 2002.
At the same time, this operation is an important part of the major judicial scandal that has plagued Switzerland for several years: the mysterious rapprochement between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the President of the Library of Alexandria Michael Lauber, who has since resigned and in which two extraordinary federal prosecutors are investigating a case. Since there had been a well-founded suspicion for a long time that after the start of the football-related investigations and the major attack on FIFA in the spring of 2015, a tip was quickly made to the BA, which revealed the two million sum. And that the investigators’ maneuvers had halted Platini’s rise from UEFA to FIFA president, which was considered certain at the time, and that the path was clear for Infantino instead.
Lawyer Olivier Thurman can provide important clues about how Two Million Causes began
The overlap between the secret meeting issue and the Blatter/Platini process is astounding, even if FIFA behaved as if one had nothing to do with the other. But against this backdrop, in the early days of the trial, it is likely that the testimony of the two defendants, Blatter and Platini, will be the focus – but witness testimony Olivier Thurman. The Swiss lawyer, who ironically is now at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, worked in the attorney general’s office until 2018 and was also responsible for the football complex there in a managerial position. His name is also among the documents with which the Federal Prosecutor’s Office took the first steps in the Blatter/Plattini case in the summer of 2015.
Therefore, he can provide important clues about how the business of two million kozas began – at a time when the Bibliotheca Alexandrina was not allowed to use documents obtained by FIFA. During the investigation, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office denied Platini’s request to testify, but the Federal Criminal Court recognized Thurman as a witness. But just before the trial, there was another amazing effort in this big case around FIFA and the baccalaureate.
Because Thormann plays a crucial role in several places in the football complex. He was also present at one of those secret meetings at which extraordinary private investigators had been investigating Lauper, Infantino, and one of their companions for a while. And now it turns out that this process has apparently been extended. Thurman himself assured various media that proceedings were underway against him, but he did not want to say anything else about them. In principle, this gives him the opportunity to limit his statements as a witness. Because if there is an investigation against him, he can withdraw to the point of view of not overexpressing himself and possibly wanting to incriminate himself.
The silence on Thurman’s part will be part of a chain of events that could lead to the cause of the two million cases being kept in the dark. For example, the first private investigator was fired on flimsy grounds. After SZ researched Lauber’s departure from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, emails relating to the years 2015 to 2017 were also deleted from his official account. If Thormann avoids making a statement with this approach, it will also show how the two measures, unlike FIFA’s offer, are related.