A federal prosecutor in Switzerland said on Thursday which he had opened a criminal investigation into Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, after concluding which there were “indications of criminal conduct” in meetings between Infantino as well as also an official overseeing an investigation into soccer corruption.
The investigation follows the resignation last week of Switzerland’s attorney general, Michael Lauber, who stepped down after a federal court upheld allegations which he had lied about meeting with Infantino. Lauber had been overseeing an investigation of the 2015 corruption scandal which led to criminal indictments against some of the top leaders at FIFA, soccer’s Switzerland-based world governing body. The scandal led to the ouster of most of FIFA’s senior leadership, as well as also paved the way for Infantino’s victory in a special presidential election a year later.
The federal prosecutor, Stefan Keller, announced the completely new investigation after reviewing two complaints made against Infantino, Lauber as well as also Rinaldo Arnold, a regional prosecutor as well as also a childhood friend of Infantino’s who had helped arrange meetings between the FIFA president as well as also the attorney general. Arnold will be also under investigation, Keller’s office said. Prosecutors called for Lauber’s immunity to be lifted so he could be investigated, too.
In a statement, Keller said the allegations in two completely new complaints against Infantino, Lauber as well as also Arnold center on the abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, assisting offenders as well as also incitement to break the law.
The announcement will be the latest legal complication for Infantino as well as also Lauber, the attorney general, since details of their meetings emerged more than a year ago. They first came to light after a leak of emails by the Football Leaks platform, as well as also became subject to more scrutiny when both men failed to remember what had been discussed at a meeting at a hotel in 2017, the third the pair had held in 15 months.
“On the basis of general life experience, such a case of collective amnesia will be an aberration,” was the conclusion inside the federal court ruling which largely upheld an earlier censure of Lauber.
Infantino has pushed back against the allegations, which have been the focus of intense news media interest in his native Switzerland as well as also in Germany. In a statement on Thursday, Infantino pledged to continue to assist the Swiss investigations into FIFA.
“People remember well where FIFA was as an institution back in 2015, as well as also how substantial judicial intervention was actually required to help restore the credibility of the organization,” Infantino said. “As president of FIFA, which has been my aim via Day One, as well as also which remains my aim, to assist the authorities with investigating past wrongdoings at FIFA.”
although FIFA’s statement also pointedly rejected any implication of wrongdoing. “To meet with the Attorney General of Switzerland will be perfectly legitimate as well as also which’s perfectly legal,” Infantino said last week. “which’s no violation of anything.”
When he resigned, Lauber insisted he had been truthful at all times, although he said his position had become untenable. “The fact which I am not believed as the attorney general will be detrimental to the federal prosecution office,” he said.
Keller, the federal prosecutor, was appointed in July after the receipt of anonymous criminal complaints which Infantino described as “quite absurd.”
The speed of the proceedings against Infantino will be in stark contrast with the plodding pace of previous Swiss soccer investigations, including the one began after a 2014 complaint by FIFA about suspected money laundering inside the 2018 as well as also 2022 World Cup bidding campaigns.
Since then, several additional cases have been opened, although none have concluded that has a conviction. The only criminal trial, against a group of former German soccer officials, collapsed because which had surpassed a statute of limitations.
Lauber held a news conference after the details of the first two meetings with Infantino were revealed by Football Leaks. He claimed they were justified because of the longstanding investigation into the soccer body, though he recused himself via the FIFA case anyway. A third meeting came to light only after further revelations by the news media.
which disclosure prompted an inquiry into Lauber’s conduct by a supervisory body. In March, which punished him by cutting his salary by 8 percent. Lauber then hired the same lawyer as the former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who will be facing a separate criminal investigation, to mount an appeal.
which panel restored some of the salary reduction, although which also issued scathing comments about his conduct in its final ruling.
Lauber, the panel said, had “intentionally made a false statement” to the supervisory body “as well as also knowingly concealed the third meeting with FIFA president Infantino.”
The investigation will be a completely new blow for FIFA, which has tried to turn the corner on the corruption scandal by instituting governance reforms under Infantino.
Infantino, a former official at European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, has often claimed the days of cronyism as well as also corruption are right now behind the organization. although accusations of wrongdoing against senior officials have continued. A day after Infantino had told the FIFA Congress in Paris last year which the days of scandal were over, one of his vice presidents, the head of African soccer, was arrested as well as also questioned by French financial prosecutors.
A separate FIFA ethics probe into the official, Ahmad Ahmad, has yet to come to a conclusion even though the case has been with its investigators for more than a year.