Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his ex-UEFA counterpart Michel Platini have been charged with fraud in Switzerland.
It follows a six-year investigation into a payment of two million Swiss francs (GBP1.6m) from FIFA to Platini.
Blatter, 85, and French football legend Platini, 65, could now face a trial within months.
Blatter (right) authorised FIFA to make the payment to Platini. Pic: AP
“This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini,” Swiss federal prosecutors said in a statement.
In January 2011, Platini wrote to FIFA asking to be paid backdated additional salary for working as a presidential adviser in Blatter’s first term from 1998 to 2002.
Blatter authorised FIFA to make the payment within weeks.
He and Platini have long denied wrongdoing and said they had verbally agreed for the money to be paid more than 20 years ago.
The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) alleged that an annual compensation of 300,000 Swiss francs for Platini’s consulting was agreed in a written contract signed by both of them in 1999.
The OAG alleged that the compensation was invoiced by Platini on each occasion and paid in full by FIFA.
Platini has been charged with fraud, misappropriation, forgery and as an accomplice to Blatter’s alleged mismanagement. Pic: AP
Eight years later, Platini allegedly demanded the payment of two million Swiss francs – which prosecutors said was made “without a legal basis”.
In addition to being charged with fraud, Blatter has been charged with mismanagement, misappropriation of FIFA funds and forgery of a document.
Platini has been charged with fraud, misappropriation, forgery and as an accomplice to Blatter’s alleged mismanagement.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter (right) talks to UEFA president Michel Platini. Pic: AP
Prosecutors opened criminal proceedings against Blatter in September 2015.
Platini was placed under formal investigation last year and months later the more serious allegation of fraud was included against both men.
“I view the proceedings at the federal criminal court with optimism – and hope that, with this, this story will come to an end and all the facts will be worked through cleanly,” Blatter said in a statement.
“Regarding the payment of the sum of two million francs from FIFA to Michel Platini, I can only repeat myself: It was based on an oral contract that regulated Platini’s advisory activities for FIFA between 1998 and 2002,” he added.
Michel Platini (right) congratulating FIFA President Sepp Blatter after he was re-elected in 2015
Batter said Platini only made his claim for the money in 2010 because FIFA was not able to pay the full amount at the time and the payment had been delayed.
The former FIFA president said “all responsible FIFA bodies” had approved the payments and that Platini had paid tax on the amount “at his Swiss place of residence”.
Platini did not immediately respond to a request for comment but last month his Swiss lawyer Dominic Nellen said the investigation “should have been discontinued long ago”.
He said the defence has now requested various witnesses, adding: “There are enough witness reports and documents in the case files that prove my client’s innocence.”
Fraud and forgery charges can be punished with jail sentences of up to five years.
Original Source: news.sky.com
WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll
The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.
WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.
Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.
The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.
There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.
Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.
Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.
Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.
There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.
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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.
“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”
Original Source: news.sky.com
Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons
The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.
Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.
He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.
The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.
He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.
Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.
He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.
His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.
During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.
Original Article: news.sky.com
Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed
A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.
The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.
The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.
Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.
All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.
At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.
This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.
Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.
The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.
An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province
There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.
Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.
Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.
Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.
China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.
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