Platini criticizes FIFA over luxury watch probe

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GENEVA (AP) — UEFA President Michel Platini denounced FIFA's handling over a luxury gifts controversy on Friday and world football's governing body then disclosed it spent at least $140,000 on watches for officials at the World Cup.

Platini was angered by FIFA publicly rebuking football officials who accepted gifts at the World Cup, saying he will donate about $27,000 to charity rather than return the Parmigiani watch given to him by the Brazilian federation.

On Thursday, FIFA told officials they had until next month to return the Brazilian football confederation watch or face ethics proceedings for accepting a gift that had more than a "symbolic or trivial value."

Platini, one of FIFA President Sepp Blatter's biggest critics, questioned why the governing body is only now making an issue out of the Parmigiani watches.

"I was very surprised by the FIFA press release. I think that the best thing would have been to call us, to say that the ethics committee has done so-and-so and they're not pleased," Platini said through a translator. "But if the ethics committee was not pleased, they should have told us that four months ago in Brazil, when we received the watches.

"They were aware that we were receiving these watches because everybody received them."

Then, in response to questions from The Associated Press on Friday, FIFA said it had spent around $143,200 on Longines watches for delegates attending its congress in June on the eve of the World Cup. FIFA hasn't detailed spending on other gifts in Brazil.

"During the 64th Congress FIFA distributed as a gift a Longines watch for all 750 delegates," FIFA said in a statement to the AP. "The watches were purchased by FIFA from Longines, who FIFA has no commercial relation with, for the face value of 180 Swiss francs ($191). This is within the provisions stipulated in the FIFA Code of Ethics."

FIFA has previously disclosed that Secretary General Jerome Valcke's wish to provide members of the 28-strong executive committee with two Hublot watches was rebuffed because they would have breached of FIFA's ethics and compensation policies.

But the Brazilian confederation distributed the Parmigiani watches to the 28 FIFA executive committee members, an official with each of the 32 teams, and members of the South American soccer confederation.

When asked if Blatter had returned his watch, FIFA responded: "Please understand that we cannot communicate about individuals."

Platini, who is also a FIFA vice president, said he was unaware his Parmigiani watch was worth as much as 25,000 Swiss francs ($26,600), and maintained that such gifts were common practice in the football world.

"We all receive watches. I've received several," Platini said, wearing another watch that had been a gift. "But I was surprised on the one hand to see the value of the watch."

FIFA demanded that the Parmigiani watches be returned by Oct. 24 to avoid disciplinary action. FIFA said they will be donated to charity.

"I'm a well-educated person. I don't return gifts," Platini said. "I'm going to ask for the value of this watch and I'm going to give to a charitable organization, a foundation, this value."


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