KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- As if overseeing a game frozen by the coronavirus pandemic were not enough, FIFA president Gianni Infantino continues to find himself unable to escape the tangled spider’s web of the Swiss justice system and his old friends and enemies.
The head of the world federation has been carrying on his day job despite the distractions of controversy over his secret discussions with Michael Lauber, the Swiss Attorney-General and falling-out with his old boss, Michel Platini.
Lauber may face an impeachment vote by the two houses of the Swiss parliament after having to admit he ‘forgot’ to register at least two meetings with Infantino. Other senior judicial officers, some of them old friends of Infantino, have also been drawn into the farrago which risks undermining the pursuit of 25 FIFA-linked cases.
On top of this Frenchman Platini, Infantino’s old boss from his days at UEFA, has accused the former European federation general secretary of a conspiracy with Lauber and urged the FIFA president to quit the top world football job to which he was re-elected only last year.
Platini, whose late vote-switch led to Qatar landing host rights to the 2022 World Cup instead of the United States, has also suggested that FIFA should now consider stripping the Gulf state of the tournament.
Most recently a criminal complaint against Infantino has been registered with the Bern Cantonal Court. This followed a complaint by a former investigator about Infantino’s secret meetings with Lauber.
The danger for Infantino is that the instigation of a formal prosecutors’ investigation against him could not be ignored by the FIFA ethics committee.
Miguel Poiares Maduro, briefly head of the FIFA governance committee between 2016 and 2017, has told French newspaper that at the least the ethics panel should review the Infantino/Lauber affaire.
Platini, in a long, angry interview with the L’Illustre, had said: “The fact that I was the victim of a conspiracy is obvious to me. In 2016, the FIFA presidency should have been mine with a large majority, everyone knows that. Infantino, who was my secretary general at UEFA, knew this better than anyone.
“However, as numerous press articles have revealed, it seems that Gianni Infantino skilfuly combined, at the beginning of summer 2015, to ensure that I was excluded from the race for the presidency of FIFA, by behind-the-scenes agreements with the Attorney-General Michael Lauber and other associates as well as the head of the FIFA legal service Marco Villiger.
“The only thing necessary now, in my opinion, is a real investigation so that the truth can come out.
“Infantino, in my opinion, should surrender his mandate. But the problem is that he became president of FIFA as an opportunist and will do everything to hang on to his post.”
Turning to the Qatar hosting of the 2022 World Cup, Platini pointed to fraud allegations concerning the bidding process which had been noted in court documents in the United States concerning broadcast deals.
Platini said: “It It is legitimate to consider that if the vote has been rigged, that if there has been corruption by the payment of bribes, FIFA cannot turn a blind eye.
“It is obviously very hard for Qatar which has invested so much in stadiums and infrastructure – and I remind you that I myself had voted for the country.
“But to the extent that the American justice system seems to have irrefutable proof, one should not play a World Cup tainted with illegality.
“You need to have some moral authority to question a rigged vote: Infantino has neither the scale nor the ethics that a FIFA president must have to make such decisions.”
Qatar World Cup organisers have always denied any sort of illicit operation and were cleared by a FIFA internal inquiry.
A FIFA statement in response to the various judicial issues said:
Meeting with prosecutors is a standard procedure not a crime. Making an complaint against someone for meeting a prosecutor is a farce.
Those who fear being brought to justice can make as many anonymous complaints as they want. This will not deter FIFA and the FIFA President from cooperating with prosecutors in Switzerland and in other countries in their task of investigating and eventually holding wrong-doing to account.
As stated many times before, FIFA, which has been damaged by criminal actions in the past, holds regular meetings with authorities in Switzerland and elsewhere. The sole aim of such meetings is to assist the authorities in their investigation of criminal wrong-doing which has adversely affected FIFA.
In many other countries people previously linked to football have been convicted and sentenced, also thanks to FIFA’s cooperation. In particular in the USA, cooperation with FIFA has led to over 40 criminal convictions.