Blatter, Platini face FIFA ethics hearings within 2 weeks

Posted at 6:26 AM, Dec 04, 2015

GENEVA (AP) — Facing life bans for corruption, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini are expected to go before the FIFA ethics committee within two weeks.

A person familiar with the cases told The Associated Press on Friday that the hearings should take place from Dec. 16-18 in Zurich. Verdicts are expected days later. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not been made public.

As Platini prepares to try to salvage his soccer career after accepting a $2 million payment from FIFA in 2011, one of his closest friends has resigned from the FIFA ethics committee.

Jacques Lambert, who Platini personally chose to head the 2016 European Championship organizing committee in their native France, had joined the ethics investigatory chamber in May at UEFA's invitation.

Lambert resigned Friday for "personal reasons," the ethics committee said in a statement to the AP.

By leaving, Lambert avoided the risk of being suspended by FIFA for contacting Platini, who is barred from duty awaiting his ethics hearing.

Because of their shared nationality, Lambert was not allowed to be involved in the ethics investigation, which has recommended a life ban for Platini. The expulsion request was confirmed last month by Platini's Paris-based lawyer, Thibaut d'Ales.

Platini was charged over a $2 million payment from FIFA that Blatter approved as backdated salary for work as a presidential adviser from 1998-2002.

Both deny wrongdoing and claim they had a verbal contract for Platini to receive the money. Under Swiss law, FIFA did not need to pay the money after five years passed since Platini's job ended.

The two presidents face separate hearings — likely at FIFA headquarters — before the ethics court led by German judge Joachim Eckert. Like Platini, Blatter is also serving a 90-day interim ban pending the verdict.

Platini wants to clear his name and stand as a candidate to succeed Blatter in the FIFA presidential election on Feb. 26.

Switzerland's attorney-general has opened criminal proceedings against Blatter over the payment as suspected criminal mismanagement of FIFA money. Platini, a former France captain, was quizzed in September at FIFA headquarters as "between a witness and an accused person," according to attorney general Michael Lauber.

Platini and Blatter were knocked off the FIFA news agenda Thursday when two more vice presidents were arrested in Zurich as bribery suspects.

On Friday, Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay and Alfredo Hawit of Honduras were also banned from soccer for 90 days.

Both were among 16 Latin American soccer leaders named in a sweeping U.S. Department of Justice indictment on bribery and racketeering charges. They are accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from television marketing rights.

The FIFA ethics committee said judge Eckert applied the provisional bans, which have become routine for officials charged by American authorities.

Napout and Hawit are resisting extradition to the U.S. while being detained in Zurich-area jails, likely beyond the holiday period.

American authorities have 40 days to file formal extradition requests with the Swiss government.

Napout had become a key FIFA powerbroker and strong supporter of Platini's presidential bid before and immediately after the legal problems. Napout has since switched South America's support to Platini's right-hand man, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino.