UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon have been raided by the Swiss Federal Police in connection with a television rights contract for the Champions League, uncovered as part of 11 million documents leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The authorities, who turned up at the building in Switzerland unannounced, reportedly seized information relating to the contract, drawn up between European football’s governing body and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, owners of a company called Cross Trading, in 2006.
The duo are under criminal investigation in the United States as part of the widespread probe into corruption within FIFA.
The deal, signed off by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, director of legal services at UEFA at the time, involved Cross Trading, an offshore company registered to the small Pacific island Niue.
They paid $111,000 (£78,000/€98,000) for the Ecuadorian rights to the Champions League, UEFA’s flagship club competition, for the 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2009 campaigns.
Hugo and Mariano Jinkis then sold them on for almost three times as much to Ecuadorian broadcaster Teleamazonas, who paid $311,170 (£220,000/€270,000), according to the documents.
“UEFA can confirm that today we received a visit from the office of the Swiss Federal Police acting under a warrant and requesting sight of the contracts between UEFA and Cross Trading/Teleamazonas,” a UEFA statement read.
“Naturally, UEFA is providing the Federal Police with all relevant documents in our possession and will cooperate fully.”
The development had marked the first time UEFA have been implicated in the criminal probe into prolonged wrongdoing at FIFA, despite the organisation having previously denied they were in any way connected or involved with those who have been indicted by US criminal authorities.
There is no suggestion Infantino, elected as President of world football’s governing body in February, took a bribe relating to the contract.
In a statement released last night, the Swiss, a strong advocate of creating a new start for FIFA following the tumultuous developments last year, said he was “dismayed” and would “not accept that my integrity is being doubted by certain areas of the media, especially given that UEFA has already disclosed in detail all facts regarding these contracts”.
UEFA have issued an updated statement today, which reads: “UEFA is dismayed by certain stories in the media suggesting that there might have been untoward or improper conduct in connection with a television rights contract concluded with a company based in Ecuador in 2006.
“For the record, and as repeatedly explained to the media, there was never any suggestion that anything improper took place.
“It is correct that UEFA was asked some time ago whether it had any commercial dealings with certain companies and/or individuals named in the US indictment.
“At the time of our initial response we had not had the opportunity to check each and every one of our (thousands) of commercial contracts and so the answer given was initially incomplete.
“That is the reason why Gianni Infantino initially thought, based on the information provided by UEFA, that there had been no previous UEFA contracts with any companies and/or individuals named in the indictment.
“That is also why FIFA gave this information to the media.
“We have now had the opportunity to conduct a full review of our commercial contracts and, as regards this particular TV contract in Ecuador dating back to 2006, it should be pointed out that the rights in question were awarded after an open tender conducted by TEAM Marketing, acting on behalf of UEFA.
“The rights were awarded to Teleamazonas/Cross Trading because they made the highest offer on the market.
“For the record, neither UEFA nor Gianni Infantino have ever been contacted by any authorities in connection with this particular contract.
“Of course, if UEFA is contacted for any reason then it will be more than happy to cooperate.”
The contract was part of the Panama Papers, the leak of which has sent shockwaves around the political and sporting worlds.
Before Infantino was implicated for the first time, FIFA were dragged into the furore when the documents showed a connection between Ethics Committee member Juan Pedro Damiani, who also has links to Cross Trading, and Uruguayan counterpart Eugenio Figueredo, charged by US authorities with money laundering and wire fraud.
The revelation prompted FIFA’s Ethics Committee to launch an immediate investigation into Damiani’s link with Figueredo, one of seven officials arrested at the Baur Au Lac hotel in Zurich last May.
Damiani, who helped to ban former President Sepp Blatter, has since resigned as a member of the Ethics Committee.
- By Liam Morgan
- Republished with permission, insidethegames.biz