Prosecutors in Switzerland have launched criminal proceedings against FIFA President, Gianni Infantino
The proceedings aim to investigate his dealings with Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber.
This comes a week after Mr. Lauber offered to resign after a court concluded he covered up a meeting with Mr. Infantino and lied to supervisors while his office probed corruption surrounding soccer’s governing body.
Switzerland’s federal prosecutors on Thursday, July 30, said that special prosecutor Stefan Keller, appointed earlier this month to review criminal complaints against the two men and others involved, had found indications of criminal conduct related to the meetings.
Lauber and Infantino both previously denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Infantino joined UEFA in 2000 and became their General Secretary in 2009. In 2016, he became FIFA president after beating favourite Sheikh Salman to replace Sepp Blatter.
Blatter resigned after stakeholders forced him to resign from world football’s governing body over corruption allegations.
In July 2016, Infantino’s opponents accused him of breaking the FIFA code of ethics. So, the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee interviewed him.
The investigation was focused on three areas: “several flights taken by Mr. Infantino during the first months of his presidency, human resources matters related to hiring processes in the president’s office, and Mr. Infantino’s refusal to sign the contract specifying his employment relationship with FIFA”.
Even though a leaked document showed illegitimate spending of FIFA funds, the Committee did not investigate the matter concerning expenses and governance.
The document revealed that Infantino had billed FIFA for personal expenses. The spendings include £8,795 for mattresses at his home, £6,829 for a stepper exercise machine, £1,086 for a tuxedo, £677 on flowers and £132 on personal laundry.
In addition to that, he billed the FIFA governing body for an external driver for his family and advisors while he was away.
When Infantino accepted special treatment by the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts Russia and Qatar, the question of a potential conflict of interest was raised. The hosts had organized private jets for Infantino and his staff related to visits in Russia and the Gulf state.
The investigatory chamber was of the opinion that no violation had occurred. In addition to that, the chamber found that “human resources matters, as well as Mr. Infantino’s conduct with regard to his contract with FIFA constituted internal compliance issues rather than an ethical matter.”
While the investigatory chamber discharged Infantino, this did not stop criticism. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, a former German football champion, criticized Infantino for not fulfilling his promises regarding transparency, democracy and governance. “So far this has not succeeded in my eyes,” he complained.