Platini loses appeal at CAS over 90-day FIFA ban

Posted at 5:58 AM, Dec 11, 2015

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Michel Platini failed to overturn his 90-day FIFA ban on Friday, with the ruling coming only minutes after Swiss federal prosecutors said they stepped up their criminal investigation into a $2 million payment he received from soccer's scandal-hit governing body.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said its three-man panel of judges was unanimous in ruling against the FIFA election hopeful's appeal, stating that the former France great would still be able to campaign for president after an expected FIFA ethics committee verdict.

The 90-day ban "does not cause irreparable harm to Michel Platini at this point in time," the court said in a statement.

Even if the ban had been lifted, Platini was unlikely to have his candidacy — including an integrity check — validated by FIFA's election panel before the ethics verdict is due, the court said.

Because of Friday's ruling, Platini, the president of UEFA, remains barred from attending the European Championship draw in Paris on Saturday and cannot resume campaigning ahead of the FIFA presidential election on Feb. 26.

"Obviously, Michel Platini would have preferred get back to his duties," the Frenchman's lawyer, Thibaud d'Ales, told The Associated Press. "But he remains very confident that he will be cleared in the end. It's better to win on the merits of the case than on the provisional ban."

Platini's next legal date is Friday when his case will be heard by the FIFA ethics committee in Zurich. A life ban has been requested by ethics prosecutors and a verdict is expected days later.

Separately, Switzerland's attorney general announced new moves Friday to gather evidence from FIFA and UEFA in a case which led to criminal proceedings being opened against FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is also serving a 90-day FIFA ban.

The case centers on Blatter's approval of $2 million of FIFA money that Platini got in 2011 as salary for working as a presidential adviser a decade earlier. Neither body's executive committee was told when the payment was made in February 2011, three months before a FIFA presidential election.

Platini's lawyers said last weekend they had a memo from a UEFA meeting in November 1998 when he had no links to the European body. It noted that he would soon be appointed FIFA sports director and be paid 1 million Swiss francs (about $1 million).

"Given the latest developments in the case, I can't see how we can plead our case next week without the ethics committee's reopening its investigations," D'Ales said. "Unless they do a rush job of it."

Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber now has documents which Platini's legal team say supported the claim that his salary deal — which deferred some payment and was not part of a written contract — was not secret.

"The OAG (office of attorney general) served a formal request on UEFA and documents have already been handed over and seized," Lauber's office said Friday in a statement.

Lauber has also asked FIFA to explain how Platini came to be appointed and in what role, starting in January 1999.

"Ultimately, Michel Platini was not appointed FIFA sports director," Lauber's office said, adding it wanted "information on the specifications of the position of sports director, on the decision not to appoint Michel Platini to the position, and on the grounds for this decision."

Platini was questioned by Swiss authorities at FIFA headquarters on Sept. 25, and Lauber has said he is "between a witness and an accused person."

Platini and Blatter deny wrongdoing, but acknowledge there was only a verbal agreement which they say is valid under Swiss law. However, FIFA was not required to pay Platini when more than five years elapsed since the work was completed.

The timing of the payment also raised suspicion, weeks before Blatter started campaigning for re-election in a contest against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Blatter got UEFA's support and won unopposed when Bin Hammam was implicated in bribing Caribbean voters.

Platini and Blatter face sanctions for a range of potential FIFA Code of Ethics violations, including bribery, conflicts of interest and false accounting.

On Friday, CAS ordered the FIFA ethics court to work quickly on Platini's case, saying his provisional ban could not be extended by a further 45 days in January.

Platini's guilt or innocence was not a factor in Friday's ruling, CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb said.

"The merits of the case have not really been considered by the panel at this stage," Reeb said.