The FIFA ethics committee has banned Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini from all activities relating to world soccer for eight years, the Associated Press reports.
Blatter and Platini, who were suspended from their posts as FIFA and UEFA presidents in October, have been subjects of an ongoing investigation by the ethics committee centering around alleged mismanagement of FIFA funds.
In Monday’s decision, the ethics committee judges said they found Blatter’s $2 million payment to Platini in 2011 to be evidence of conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA.
Both Blatter and Platini have contended that the payment was a legal repayment of a portion of Platini’s salary that FIFA was unable to pay at the time. They called it a “gentleman’s agreement” as they could not provide documentation on the transaction upon FIFA’s request.
“Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr. Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment,” the judges said. “By failing to place FIFA's interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA's interests, Mr. Blatter violated his fiduciary duty to FIFA.
“His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber.”
The transaction is also a subject of the Swiss investigation into Blatter for criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of FIFA money. Blatter is accused of intentionally mismanaging FIFA funds in order to make bribery payments. Platini threw his support behind Blatter to be re-elected as FIFA president shortly after receiving the $2 million.
The FBI is also investigating Blatter, whose tenure as FIFA’s president has reached 17 years, for an unrelated instance of alleged bribery.
Blatter, 79, said he plans to appeal the ban, which is accompanied by a $50,250 (50,000 Swiss francs) fine.
“I will fight,” Blatter said in a press conference following the announcement. “I will fight until the end.”
FIFA denied both men’s appeals of their original 90-day bans, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport denied Platini’s further appeal. The Court of Arbitration for Sport will also hear the appeals for the eight-year bans, which are abbreviations of the lifetime bans FIFA had recommended in November.
Platini, 60, was fined $80,400 in Swiss francs, and was effectively eliminated from his contention in the special election for FIFA president, which will be held on Feb. 26, 2016. Platini also said he would appeal, calling the punishment a “true mockery.”
- Erin Flynn