By Tony Attwood
We have often covered the interest that the Swiss legal system has in Fifa in general and Infantino in particular. One of the more recent affairs, for example, was that revealed by the Swiss newspaper Le Matin in which the public prosecutor of Fribourg has opened criminal proceedings against Gianni Infantino, the head of Fifa, and two other Fifa executives, for slander.
That case revolves around the issue of dual or triple representation of footballers involved in transfers, in which a player’s agent represents the player, the club he plays for, and the club he is moving to.
But that, and the multitude of other similar cases has always looked rather small when compared with the accusation by the Swiss justice department of three meetings Infantino attended, which were held in secret in 2016 and 2017 with Michael Lauber, who at the time was head of the Public Ministry of Switzerland. Such private meetings with no independent witness present are illegal in virtually every democratic country: meetings between a prosecutor and the accused always need to have independent witnesses present to avoid accusations of bribery and corruption.
And the Swiss media have for some time been voicing suspicions of collusion between the prosecution and Fifa, a totally unpreceded situation.
Michael Lauber, was dismissed in June 2019 because of those undeclared contacts with Infantino. And the story (although still unreported in England because of the unremitting pro-Fifa stance within the English media) is now gathering momentum once more because three Swiss – including the former Attorney General of Fifa, the aforementioned Lauber – are being investigated by the American Helsinki Commission which accuses Lauber and others of making illegal tax arrangements with Russia.
The Helsinki Commission also accuses three Swiss citizens including Infantino of helping sanctioned Russians access funds frozen in Switzerland and of having accepted gifts and trips offered by Russian officials and oligarchs.
But the Swiss media are now openly voicing suspicions of collusion between the prosecution and Fifa, a totally unpreceded situation in this and other cases. The reason for the collusion was seemingly to protect the “good name” of Fifa, but probably in reality because Switzerland derives huge incomes from having organizations such as Fifa have their headquarters in Switzerland.
One of the fascinating issues within the case is that a significant part of Infantino’s defence is that Fifa held an investigation into the matter in August 2020, and cleared Infantino of any wrongdoing. As if Fifa investigating Fifa is likely to produce a sensible conclusion.
This story is now making the headlines in many parts of the world… except in the UK where such matters are still considered to be just funny foreigners getting into a tizz.
Which when one comes to think of the child sex abuse scandal in English football, alongside the endless Infantino scandals, is pretty appalling. But then, that’s journalism. Or at least, “That’s football journalism in England”.
But it is not just a case of journalism in England not dealing with the potentially illegal dealings of Fifa and some of its most senior staff, there is also seemingly an unwillingness in the English media to consider issues within football in England itself. Just as one does not read about the highly dubious dealings of Fifa and how the law is (admittedly slowly) looking into the work of Fifa, so one doesn’t hear anything much about the way children are being treated by football clubs in England.
Of course Untold can’t make any accusations but we do notice the legal cases that get settled or break down before they get to court, and the complete lack of coverage by the media here over issues of the safety of children in football clubs in England. But then if the English media are not going to cover criminal proceedings being launched against Infantino I guess they are not going to be interested much in the way that children and teenagers are being treated in football clubs.
We’ll come back to this shortly, but when as recently, we asked, are Saudi Arabia taking over Fifa, there is a real reason why that might happen. The law in Saudi Arabia is quite different from that of Switzerland. And there is a nervousness that Switzerland is starting to wake up to the fact that Fifa does seem to be involved in one or two controversial issues.
And the main point is this: if the media of a country simply refuse to engage in a subject – how do we ever know what is going on?
- Arsenal continue to make more progress than the rest of the big seven
- Arsenal v Tottenham; the team and some rather jolly recent history
- We are running out of referees, and the reason is the PGMO.
- Arsenal v Tottenham: the key fact the media won’t to tell you – and why they won’t
- Arsenal v Tottenham: different clubs, different managers, different successes