September 18, 2021

FIFA president Infantino faces Swiss criminal proceedings

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The head of world football’s governing body has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the accusations

The Swiss special prosecutor has opened criminal proceedings against FIFA president Gianni Infantino relating to dealings with the country’s attorney general Michael Lauber.

Lauber offered to resign from his position last week after a court claimed he covered up undisclosed meetings with the head of football’s governing body and lied to supervisors while his office probed alleged corruption relating to FIFA.

Stefan Keller was appointed as special prosecutor to review criminal complaints against Infantino, Lauber and other individuals.

Proceedings have consequently commenced against Infantino and the chief public prosecutor of Upper Valais, Rinaldo Arnold.

Keller has also requested permission to open proceedings against Lauber.

A statement from the Swiss Federal Council said Keller had “reached the conclusion that, in connection with the meetings between Attorney General Lauber and FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the chief public prosecutor of the Upper Valais, there are indications of criminal conduct”.

Both Infantino and Lauber have denied any wrongdoing.

FIFA has declined to comment to media on this latest legal development. Last month, Infantino said: “To meet with the head prosecutor or attorney general of Switzerland is perfectly legitimate and it’s perfectly legal.”

The Federal Council statement added: “The presumption of innocence applies to attorney general Michael Lauber, FIFA president Gianni Infantino and chief public prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold. The special federal public prosecutor is independent in his activities.”

The allegations against Infantino and Arnold “concern abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, assisting offenders and incitement to these acts”, the statement said.

Infantino became FIFA president in 2016, after his predecessor Sepp Blatter was forced to resign the year before over corruption allegations. In December 2015, Blatter was banned from all football-related activities for eight years, later reduced to six on appeal.

Speaking in 2016 after his appointment as Blatter’s successor at a FIFA Congress meeting, Infantino said: “I cannot express my feelings in this moment. We will restore the image and the respect of FIFA and everyone in the world will applaud us. We are finally going to ensure that we can once again focus on the beautiful game of football.”

Infantino, who previously worked as secretary general of UEFA, was subsequently reelected to his post at FIFA in June 2019, and in January of this year was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).