By Tony Attwood and Christophe Jost
And here we go again.
Just as Untold was saying in this morning’s article that the UK media will not touch stories about Fifa (for fear of prejudicing the FA’s bid to hold another world cup in England) Europe’s media comes alive once more as the justice department in Bern, Switzerland, has demanded that a special investigator investigate criminal charges against both the FIFA boss and the Swiss chief prosecutor.
As you can imagine, the footballing world is in uproar because the implication here is that there has been illegal collusion between Infantino, the increasingly notorious head of Fifa, and the most senior justice official in Switzerland! In terms of corruption charges it does not get bigger than this.
Fifa, understandably, is reported as getting very nervous. Gianni Infantino and Michael Lauber (the Swiss Attorney General) have been trying to get rid of this case for months, but at the end of last week, action by the public prosecutor against both Lauber and Infantino was requested, leaving neither of them any way out.
It’s a bit like the leading judge in England being caught talking to the Prime Minister about how they can arrange for a case against the PM alleging that Boris used state money to refurbish his house, buy a fleet of cars and send his mistress on holiday with his children to escape the virus, can be dismissed before it starts.
At the heart of the matter are secret meetings held between Gianni Infantino and Michael Lauber in June 2017 – meetings that should never have been held without others present (to avoid any suggestion of bribery or collusion in the legal process) and which both parties claim to have “forgotten” about.
Because these meetings were obviously completely against the rules and were of course not recorded, Lauber is already undergoing impeachment proceedings and is also suspended from various Fifa investigations by his own federal prosecutor’s office. The Bern criminal justice system is now opening the next front requesting the appointment of a federal lawyer by the parliament to investigate the whole affair.
Infantino is reported to have asked attorney general Lauber to the meetings, but Lauber, it is argued should never have attended alone. To have a private meeting with a man under suspicion of various fraudulent activities is (according to the new allegations) abuse of office, breach of official secrecy and favoritism. In short, corruption on a significant scale.
The evidence against the two is growing, as a special prosecutor from the Swiss Canton of Valais is now attesting that Infantino arranged for not one but several secret meetings with Lauber through his private legal adviser. In fact the witnesses to the alleged corruption by the head of Fifa and the highest legal official in Switzerland are themselves legal officials.
Now FIFA statutes say that if anyone is under investigation, they must immediately be suspended. This is what happened to Blatter and Platini, leaving the way for Infantino to grab the power. But this time the prosecutor and the defendant met in order to co-operate – which again not only against the statutes but highly dubious given the seriousness of the corruption investigations regarding TV rights contracts with corrupt Argentine marketing executives, which Infantino had signed.
What’s more, at this stage Infantino had only been the head of Fifa for a few weeks, and an investigation at that point would immediately have toppled him, given what happened to Blatter such a short time before.
So now the legal process in Switzerland needs to decide whether there is sufficient suspicion to initiate criminal proceedings against both its own state prosecutor, Lauber, and the head of Fifa, Infantino. And the English media still says not a word!
As can be imagined, the alleged involvement of the state prosecutor in Switzerland in such corruption is being called a major crisis for the Swiss criminal justice system, with talk in the media of Switzerland achieving the status of banana republic. Indeed it is was this danger that caused a change in the law in Switzerland which removed immunity from arrest of delegates to conferences of international organisations based in Switzerland.
Under FIFA’s ethics rules, an official is suspended for 90 days if a criminal investigation is initiated against him. This is exactly what happened to Infantino’s predecessor Sepp Blatter in 2015, when Michel Platini was also suspended at the time, even though he was only an informant in the investigation.
Fifa’s response to the situation has been typical, claiming Infantino has done nothing wrong, and that if Infantino did go to any meetings it was “to offer the Swiss authorities any support needed in ensuring that those who have stolen millions from FIFA and discredited them are held accountable.”
But why was the desire for cooperation so strong that there was a need for a number of urgent secret meetings, in one case with Infantino having to borrow the private jet of the Emir of Qatar for one in April 2016, in order to arrive on time?
This was the meeting where he apparently wanted to discuss his personal version of events which resulted in what Swiss lawyers are now describing as an “attempt to intimidate”.
Fifa’s response was that, “Anyone who makes such allegations should think very carefully before doing so, because Fifa will take all legal action to ensure that the public learns the truth “.
Meanwhile the revelations have not stopped, for as Untold reported previously we have the issue concerning the hiring of a private plane to return from South America for a meeting that never took place.
So far, Fifa has only reacted to that accusation by saying that the flight had been declared compliant. But the issue of whether the justification given was based on a lie has not be resolved – and again this is a case that has simply not been reported in Britain.
According to Fifa rules, the ethics committee should intervene here. Not least because their chief prosecutor and their compliance officer, are together paid around one million euros in salary for what now appears to be a not too strenuous watchdog job.
As for why the British media won’t touch the latest developments… well, they simply won’t ever touch any story that casts doubt on the ability of the FA (a funder of Fifa) to run things properly. Now why is that?
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