KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Life is suddenly looking up for FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Not only is his choice for new CAF president being acclaimed but a complex judicial investigation against him in Switzerland is on the brink of collapse.
While the African confederation was undertaking the enthronement of South African Patrice Motsepe so Swiss prosecutor Stefan Keller was being rapped over the knuckles by one of his own federal court for blundering far beyond his remit.
Keller was appointed last year to follow up a formal complaint about secret meetings five years ago between newly-elected world federation supremo Infantino and the then Attorney-General Michael Lauber.
Infantino and FIFA complained long and loud that the investigation was a witch hunt, a fishing trip, and that they were being wrongly denied knowledge of its precise nature. Those complaints were rejected.
However the Federal Criminal Court has how ruled that Keller himself has compromised his own credibility and investigation by spreading his inquiries too far and wide.
Last November 17 Keller interviewed a former FIFA chauffeur about trips made by Infantino when the prosecutor had no authorisation or right to do so.
Keller had two specific duties.
On the one hand he had been appointed as an extraordinary prosecutor to investigate the secret meetings. Secondly, he had been entrusted with a preliminary investigation into further criminal charges concerning Lauber’s links to FIFA. It is understood that more than 20 FIFA-linked cases had been under Lauber’s purview.
It was in referencing these commissions that Keller questioned the driver about the charter by FIFA for Infantino of a private jet to Surinam.
However extraordinary prosecutors may only investigate allegations against federal directors and their deputies. The Surinam trip was nothing to do with Lauber.
Significantly, it was soon after his questioning of the driver that Keller announced, in a press release concerning the Surinam flight: “There are clear signs of criminal behaviour on the part of the FIFA president.” Keller failed to acknowledge a presumption of innocence.
Further bungling is Keller’s reported failure thus far to question Lauber and Infantino about the meetings of which, the FIFA president has stated, no notes were taken.
FIFA is expected to step up pressure to halt the Keller investigation in its tracks.
** The Swiss Federal Criminal Court (FCC) has ruled that extraordinary Federal Prosecutor Stefan Keller acted illegally by extending his investigation beyond its remit.
Mr Keller was appointed to look into certain meetings that the former Swiss Attorney General, Michael Lauber, had with the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino. However, instead of doing this, Mr Keller, who has yet to even interview the FIFA President after nine months, started looking into things that have nothing to do with his appointed mandate.
This is why the FCC ruled today that the interrogation of certain third parties by Mr Keller: “is neither within Keller’s competence as extraordinary Federal Prosecutor nor as extraordinary Prosecutor.” The FCC concluded that the interrogations in question are “null and void” and any corresponding record of them should be removed from the file.
On 10 December 2020, Mr Keller issued a media release stating that there were “clear indications of criminal conduct on the part of the FIFA President”. Now it is clear that this unfounded and defamatory statement was made on the basis of an investigative act which was itself illegal, null and void.
The FCC further states that it is the task of the supervisory authority to oversee the conduct of the office of the extraordinary Federal Prosecutor. FIFA trusts that in future it will actually do so.