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Criminal Proceedings Opened Against FIFA President Infantino

Criminal Proceedings Opened Against FIFA President Infantino
Gianni Infantino celebrates after being elected as the new FIFA President during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress at Hallenstadion on February 26, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein - FIFA/FIF

By Duncan Mackay |

Criminal proceedings against FIFA President Gianni Infantino have been launched in Switzerland, it was announced today.

A special prosecutor was appointed earlier month to investigate dealings between Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber and the head of football’s world governing body. 

Lauber offered to resign last week after a Swiss Court concluded he covered up meetings with Infantino and lied to supervisors while his office probed corruption surrounding FIFA.

The authority overseeing Switzerland’s Federal prosecutors – known as AB-BA – announced today that special prosecutor Stefan Keller – who also requested permission to begin proceedings against the Lauber – had uncovered indications of criminal conduct related to the meetings.

A regional public prosecutor who was involved in the meetings is also facing criminal proceedings. 

“This concerns abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, assisting offenders and incitement to these acts,” the watchdog overseeing the Office of the Attorney General said in a statement.

Both Infantino and Lauber have always denied any wrongdoing. 

Lauber, however, is expected to leave his role at the end of this month and this latest news will leave a question mark over the future of Infantino, elected FIFA President as a permanent replacement for Sepp Blatter in February 2016.

The case is also an embarrassment for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which had elected Infantino as a member in January after convincing themselves that he would not face any action over this case which has been rumbling on in the background for several months. 

The case centres on undocumented meetings that Lauber and Infantino are alleged to have held in 2016 and 2017. 

The meetings only came to light following the publication of the Football Leaks series of confidential documents in November 2018.

It remains unknown what was actually discussed at those meetings, though there has been much speculation that Infantino, elected as FIFA President in February 2016, was looking into whether there was a criminal investigation into himself and potentially interfering with other investigations into the Zurich-based governing body and its partners.

Both Lauber and Infantino claim they cannot remember what they discussed. 

Lauber, the Swiss Attorney General since 2012, was already facing impeachment proceedings – the first time in Swiss history such action has been taken against someone serving in the role. 

Keller is seeking Swiss Parliamentary approval to have Lauber’s immunity from prosecution waived.

FIFA said it acknowledged the decision to open an investigation and “remains at the disposal of the Swiss authorities and will, as we have always done, cooperate fully with this investigation”.

“As President of FIFA, it has been my aim from day one, and it remains my aim, to assist the authorities with investigating past wrongdoings at FIFA,” Infantino said in a statement.

“FIFA officials have met with prosecutors in other jurisdictions across the world for exactly these purposes. 

“People have been convicted and sentenced, thanks to FIFA’s cooperation, and especially in the United States of America, where our cooperation has resulted in over 40 criminal convictions. 

“Therefore, I remain fully supportive of the judicial process, and FIFA remains willing to fully cooperate with the Swiss authorities for these purposes.”

When contacted by insidethegames for comment, the IOC said that its chief ethics and compliance officer was “following the situation” and that it could not make any further comment at present.

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.


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