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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

French football HQ raided in ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter case

BERN, Switzerland -- Swiss authorities say evidence has been seized in a search at the French football federation headquarters for their criminal case against former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

The office of Switzerland's attorney general says the governing body for French football consented to the search carried out Tuesday with the cooperation of the French Financial Prosecution Office.

Criminal proceedings were opened against Blatter in September for suspected financial mismanagement regarding a 2 million Swiss franc (£1.35 million) payment he approved from FIFA funds for Michel Platini in 2011.

"Documents were seized in connection with the suspected payment," the Swiss federal prosecution office said in a statement, which detailed a formal request for help from French authorities on Jan. 14.

Blatter and Platini were both banned from football for six years after an investigation by FIFA's ethics committee.

The two both welcomed the investigation and issued separate statements on Wednesday. 

"We welcome this new step because as soon as the Swiss justice system has completed its investigation, the sooner Michel Platini will leave the news section [of newspapers] in which he has no place," Platini's statement said.

Blatter, who turns 80 on Thursday, denied any wrongdoing.

"I'm very surprised at this for the very simple reason that the two million Swiss francs that FIFA paid to Michel Platini as part of an oral contract that existed between Michel Platini and I were neither transferred to the FFF or to UEFA but to a private account of Michel Platini's in a Swiss bank," he said in a statement.

Both men claimed they had a verbal deal for additional salary that Platini would receive for working as Blatter's presidential adviser from 1999 to 2002.

The French federation confirmed that it had cooperated with Swiss authorities and added that the information made available concerned "documents related to collaborative arrangements between Michel Platini and FIFA during the period of 1998 and 2002."

Before the payment was revealed in September, Platini had been the leading candidate to succeed Blatter as president in FIFA's emergency election on Feb. 26

The payment emerged during a wider investigation led by Switzerland's attorney general, Michael Lauber, of FIFA business. The investigation includes suspected money laundering in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Platini's status in the Swiss investigation is "between a witness and an accused person,'' Lauber has said.

The case against Blatter also involves alleged misappropriation of FIFA funds during his more than 17 years as FIFA president, which formally ended two weeks ago. Blatter allegedly arranged an undervalued deal for 2010 and 2014 World Cup broadcast rights for the Caribbean with former FIFA vice president Jack Warner.

Platini had previously said he asked Blatter for a salary of 1 million Swiss francs when approached in 1998 to work for the newly elected president.

Blatter said there was a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs, the same salary for FIFA's secretary general at the time, plus a "gentleman's agreement" to get the rest later.

Swiss law obliged FIFA only to pay the deferred money within five years. It was not until 2010 that Platini, by then president of the governing body for European football and a FIFA vice president, reportedly asked for the balance, and was paid in February 2011.

That timing has raised suspicion as the payment came during a FIFA presidential election campaign. UEFA later urged its members to support Blatter -- who promised them it would be his final term -- against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.

Blatter won that 2011 election unopposed after Bin Hammam was implicated in bribing Caribbean voters. At that point, Platini was the likely successor to lead FIFA.

Instead, Platini's longtime right-hand man at UEFA, general secretary Gianni Infantino, won the FIFA presidential election last month.

Information from ESPN FC's Mark Rodden and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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