KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: A swift new twist has followed the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations concerning a television rights deal signed off a decade ago by Gianni Infantino when he headed the legal division of European federation UEFA.
Swiss federal police have swooped on UEFA’s headquarters at Nyon, east of Geneva, to obtain all relevant documents on the deal over rights which had been sold originally to Cross Trading – an offshore company whose two senior directors were last year indicted by the United States Department of Justice in the FIFAGate scandal.
Cross Trading then sold the rights on, at a massive profit, to Ecuador broadcaster Teleamazonas.
The raid had been prompted by concerns “of criminal mismanagement” according to a statement from the Office of the Swiss Attorney General. Infantino also weighed in again with yet another denial of wrongdoing by UEFA.
The police also raided the headquarters of TEAM Marketing, UEFA’s long-term commercial partner and which had been centrally involved in the Cross Trading/Teleamazonas deals.
Following the raids, a statement by the European federation said: “UEFA can confirm that today we received a visit from the office of the Swiss federal police acting under a warrant and requesting sight of the contracts between UEFA and Telemazonas.
“Naturally UEFA is providing the federal police with all relevant documents in our possession and will cooperate fully.”
UEFA had contributed to the initial confusion by denying any commercial or contractual relationship with Cross Trading and directors Hugo and Mariano Jinkis despite having been supplied with the specific names by journalists working on the massive cache of leaked papers from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama company specialising in the creation of offshore companies.
Later UEFA backtracked and conceded that its initial answer had been “incomplete.” Further research had revealed indeed that Infantino, elected FIFA president in February, was one of two UEFA officials who had signed off on the original agreement.
Subsequently the Office of the Swiss Attorney General issued a statement attributing the search to “suspicion of criminal mismanagement” against persons unknown.
It added, with clear reference to the United States FIFAGate case and the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations: “The suspicion is based on the result of findings that have emerged from other proceedings as well as the corresponding financial analyses carried out by the OAG.
“Current publications in the media subsequently revealed still other elements that made it possible to complement the existing findings in a decision manner.
“The final impetus was provided in particular by confirmation on the part of UEFA that it had concluded contracts with Cross Trading.”
The issue has come as a massive embarrassment to UEFA, FIFA and Infantino himself at a time when he has been entrusted with trying to clean up the image of the world game’s governing body.
Hence he felt he had no option but to follow up his own earlier statement of “dismay” with a further declaration of his determination to see the controversy resolved.
Infantino said: “If my determination to restore football’s reputation was already very strong, it is now even stronger. I welcome any investigation conducted into this matter.
“For the sake of transparency and clarity, it is essential that all elements of this dossier are disclosed, as UEFA has done. Based on these documents, it is clear that all contractual matters were conducted properly by UEFA.
“Should I be required to contribute to bringing further clarification on the matter, I will of course gladly do so. It is in my interest and in the interest of football that everything should come to light.”
Ownership of an offshore company is not illegal and all parties have denied any wrongdoing.