KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: FIFA has failed in an attempt to cut off at the pass a criminal investigation into the meetings between its president, Gianni Infantino, and the then-Attorney General of Switzerland, Michael Lauber, in 2016 and 2017.
The Swiss Federal Criminal Court has published its judgment against objections raised by FIFA lawyers against the work of special prosecutor Stefan Keller. His investigation is focused on both men as well as Rinaldo Arnold, a prosecutor of Haut-Valais and friend of Infantino.
The investigation was opened for “incitement to abuse of authority”, “violation of official secrecy” and “obstruction of criminal proceedings”.
FIFA has described Keller’s initial findings “malicious” and “defamatory” and as having bordered on “character assassination”.
It had contested Keller’s authority on the grounds of “partiality” and sought access to the criminal documentation.
A request for the recusal of Keller was rejected by the court which considered certain objections of FIFA to be “totally irrelevant”.
The TPF, according to a statement earlier this week by Keller, “also confirmed that the opening of criminal proceedings against FIFA president Gianni Infantino . . . is in accordance with the law.”
FIFA responded by criticising Keller as not being an impartial investigator and of “deliberately attempts to give the misleading impression that something illegal or problematic happened when the FIFA president met the former Attorney General. We totally reject such a suggestion.”
Although the investigation is into Infantino, FIFA has taken up the case because the investigation concerns its president in his role with the world football federation.
FIFA added: “To date, and after almost six months, neither FIFA nor the FIFA president have been informed of what was allegedly done wrong, and the FIFA president has not been given the opportunity to comment or explain because he was not even questioned about anything.
“Instead of informing parties through official channels and observing basic principles of due process, it appears that MR Keller continues to broadcast unsubstantiated allegations through his favorite media platforms, a situation both regrettable and absolutely unprofessional. ”
The three informal meetings between Lauber, who had been in charge of criminal proceedings concerning FIFA from 2015 to 2019, and Infantino had raised suspicions of collusion.
Lauber, who was forced to resign last August, claims to have no memory of a third meeting, which took place on June 16, 2017, in Bern, in the presence of the head of communication of the Public Ministry of the Swiss Confederation André Marty, and Arnold.
The latter had already served as an intermediary for a previous meeting between Infantino and Lauber in March 2016.