By Tony Attwood
It doesn’t matter how many times the UK media is told about a Fifa scandal, they won’t cover it. Whether it is the fact that Qatar’s stadia have been built by slave labour, or the fact that Fifa President Gianni Infantino is being taken before the courts on yet another scandal, it will not be on broadcast media nor written up in the papers in the UK.
Indeed the only people in the UK who will really be aware of the background to the latest court fight between Infantino and the Swiss authorities aside from those who read the European media are those who choose to read Untold Arsenal. If that’s you, this headline will bring back memories…
“Based on the investigations carried out” (into a private jet flight between Suriname and Switzerland, dating back to 2017), “Stefan Keller is of the opinion that a criminal investigation should be initiated.”
That was from LeMatin in Switzerland yesterday. And here’s the tale…
The newly appointed Federal Prosecutor Extraordinary in Switzerland, Stefan Keller, has now concluded that Gianni Infantino was guilty of “dishonest management” in hiring a private jet, paid for by Fifa, to fly him from Suriname to Switzerland on the grounds that Infantino had to attend a meeting which turned out to be non-existent.
This investigation, is in addition to the proceedings started on 30 July against Infantino for “incitement to abuse of authority”, to “violation of official secrecy” and “obstruction of criminal proceedings.”
Stefan Keller was appointed “extraordinary prosecutor” in July this year with the responsibility of investigating collusion between Fifa and the now disgraced former chief prosecutor of Switzerland Michael Lauber. Lauber was found to have had three secret meetings in 2016 and 2017 with Gianni Infantino while he was investigating Fifa. The state’s chief prosecutor having secret meetings with the man he is supposedly investigating is considered not a good thing in Switzerland, nor indeed in any other democracy. Meetings are recorded and have a witness present.
Infantino’s defence for those meetings was that he wanted to show the prosecutor how much Fifa had changed under his leadership, and Fifa’s own “internal justice” department cleared Infantino of any wrong-doing – which is not exactly news. (It’s like the News of the World holding an enquiry into alleged phone tapping by the News of the World staff, and they had done nothing wrong).
Anyway, I don’t think anyone else in the UK reported case of Infantino and the private jet except Untold Arsenal, so it is possible you missed it. In case you did, now that the case is finally happening, here’s what happened.
Infantino goes to Suriname
In April 2017, Infantino went to visit Suriname, the smallest country in South America. He talked to the head of state, shook some hands, went to see the football ground. Then, instead of talking up their first-class seats on the scheduled flights already booked, the Fifa party hired a private jet to fly back to Switzerland.
The justification given was that the booked flight was cancelled “for technical reasons” and Infantino had appointments the next day in Europe. With no other flight available a private jet was the only option.”
A small private jet costs about £10,000 a hour to hire, for a journey like this which requires a double crew because of the length of the trip. It would be a nine hour flight each way with a three hour turn round minimum in Switzerland – a total of 21 hours, plus three hours standing by for security and safety checks making a round one day’s hire. That means the cost is £240,000. Throw in expenses and you are looking at a quarter of a million pounds, rather than an overnight stay in a five star hotel.
That story was given to the Fifa compliance officer Tomaž Vesel who has the job of checking expenditure and seeking out corruption He accepted the story and gave it the all clear but then said, “Be so good as to give me (in the near future) precise information about your already agreed appointments in the region and back tomorrow in Europe.”
He asked for this because Fifa rules state that the President of Fifa must not, without good reason, engage in additional expenditure at the expense of Fifa without this being subject to scrutiny. And as we have seen, he’s just spent around quarter of a million pounds. So Vesel’s checking is key here.
Six days later, on April 18, Vesel was given a list of seven scheduled events for the stop in Suriname, and details of “meetings on April 12 in Geneva with the Uefa president in Nyon, followed by another meeting in Geneva.” The compliance officer accepts this and says, the hiring of the private jet was “in accordance with the rules and regulations of FIFA.”
But there was a problem: there was never an appointment for the day with the Uefa president. Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin was in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, on 12 April, four and a half hours flight from Nyon. That detail was to be found on the Uefa website, showing that the evidence the compliance officer relied on was false and that he did not even bother to check Uefa’s website. Not a very good compliance officer!
In fact Ceferin met with the head of state, laying the foundation stone for the new football academy, meeting the spiritual leader, visiting a brandy distillery and Echmiadzin Cathedral, one of the oldest in the world. It was a well-publicised trip, with lots of crowds present (especially at the distillery).
When Infantino’s lies, and the lack of investigation by the compliance officer was revealed, they all said nothing. Rather like the British media who will never run stories pointing at criminal misuse of Fifa funds which British taxpayers help to pay (since we fund the FA which gives money to Fifa). They also said nothing.
As I wrote at the time of the revelations in Europe, it is exactly the sort of story that you would expect the Sun, Mail, Express and the other tabloids to revel in, just because it is scandal. You would expect the Guardian to take it up because it reveals corruption. But no one mentioned it then, and now the case against Infantino and others is getting under way they won’t mention it again.
But now the case is starting up. Poor Mr Infantino. These cases just keep on rolling along.
So just for old times sake, here is another story (this from 22 January 2015) that once again the UK media ignored. It’s the one in which we said the Swiss had rescinded the law which prohibited the arrest of members of international bodies such as Fifa while in Switzerland – which in fact let to the FBI taking over Fifa HQ.
And some more recent tales of the media, in case you want them.
- What made the Observer newspaper publish its false away wins story?
- Newspaper’s misleading data claims there is nothing wrong with PL refereeing
- The knives are out against Arsenal as the media goes beserk in its attacks
- Why is it becoming so difficult to find a sponsor for new football stadium?
- Corruption flares up again in Italy, as Premier League figures don’t look too clever
- How much does a club have to spend on transfers to get a trophy?
- Does the team that is top after 14 games usually go on to win the league?
- How the Taliban infiltrated the World Cup and used it to maintain its war on women