FIFA President Gianni Infantino vows to cooperate with the Swiss authorities in the graft probe. File/Reuters
Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called for his successor, Gianni Infantino, to be suspended by the global soccer body after criminal proceedings were opened against Infantino in Switzerland.
Swiss authorities said on Thursday that proceedings had been launched against the current FIFA boss by a special prosecutor looking into meetings he had with Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber. Lauber and Infantino have denied wrongdoing.
“For me, the situation is clear, that the FIFA ethics committee has to open a case against Mr Infantino and so it has to suspend him,” Blatter, 84, said in a statement to Reuters.
Blatter, who was FIFA president for 17 years, himself was suspended and later banned by FIFA’s ethics committee after he became the subject of criminal proceedings in Switzerland in 2015.
FIFA’s ethics committee would not comment on whether Infantino, who was elected in 2016, would face an internal investigation.
“Please note that as a general policy, the Ethics Committee does not comment on potential ongoing proceedings nor on whether or not investigations are underway into alleged cases,” it said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
“As usual, any information the Ethics Committee may like to share will be communicated accordingly upon their indications.”
Blatter’s investigation is still ongoing. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged. It centred on a payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.2 million) made in 2011 to then UEFA president Michel Platini with Blatter’s approval for work the Frenchman had done a decade earlier.
Blatter was banned for eight years, reduced to six on appeal, and Platini also for eight years, reduced to four. Platini denied wrongdoing.
The FIFA ethics committee is divided into an investigatory and adjudicatory chamber, which since 2017 have been headed by Colombian Maria Claudia Rojas and Greek Vassilios Skouris respectively. They replaced Swiss Cornel Borbely and German Hans-Joachim Eckert who were ousted when the decision-making FIFA Council decided not to renew their mandates.
Meanwhile, Infantino has said that he remains at the disposal of the Swiss authorities and will cooperate fully with investigation after a criminal case has been initiated by a Swiss Special Federal Public Prosecutor over Infantino’s dealings with Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber.
Authorities in Switzerland said on Thursday that prosecutors have found indications of criminal conduct in relation to the meetings between Infantino and Lauber.
Last week, a court had found that Lauber, while investigating corruption cases related to FIFA, had tried to hide a meeting with Infantino and lied to his supervisors in the Swiss judiciary. He subsequently offered his resignation and is set to leave the post in August.
“People remember well where FIFA was as an institution back in 2015, and how substantial judicial intervention was actually required to help restore the credibility of the organisation,” said Infantino in a statement available on the official FIFA website.
“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. 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,” he added.
Infantino had earlier denied any wrongdoing. “For a long time I have not spoken about this because the whole thing is absurd,” he had told reporters at the FIFA Council Meeting in June.
“Let me clarify once and for all. To meet the chief prosecutor of Switzerland is perfectly legitimate and perfectly legal. It’s no violation of anything. On the contrary, it’s also part of the fiduciary duties of the President of FIFA.
“It’s totally legitimate (for FIFA) to offer to contribute... hoping that those who have done criminal acts will be held to account.”