By Tony Attwood
Gianni Infantino has been hauled in front of two extraordinary prosecutors appointed to take over the investigation into the secret meetings held between the head of Fifa and the former head of the Swiss prosecution service. The fact that the meeting took place has been confirmed by one of the two magistrates involved according to AFP, the leading news agency in Switzerland.
As with most of the rest of this extraordinary case the news is not being carried by the English media, which throughout the world cup bowed down to Fifa by failing to criticise any of its arrangements, the deaths of migrant workers, or the lack of human rights in Qatar.
The magistrates declined to give any further information about the requirement that Infantino should appear before the magistrates in Zurich, wherein Fifa is located.
In the meanwhile, Infantino has let it be known that he will be a candidate for a third term as the president of Fifa, in 2023, even though the criminal proceedings against him have been running since July 2020. These include proceedings for the “incitement to abuse of authority,” the “violation of official secrecy,” and to “obstructing of criminal proceedings.”
But these of course are trivial matters. It’s the football that counts.
The Swiss justice department accuses Infantino of three meetings 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 would be illegal under Swiss law – as indeed in most countries – since meetings between the prosecutor and the accused always need to have independent witnesses present to avoid accusations of bribery and corruption.
The Swiss media are thus now openly voicing suspicions of collusion between the prosecution and Fifa, a totally unpreceded situation.
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, saying that there was an “obvious lack of evidence regarding any alleged violation of the code of ethics.”
Fortunately for those interested in law and order, a Fifa enquiry doesn’t cut any ice with the Swiss legal system, which in common with the legal systems in most democratic countries requires there to be a witness at meetings between two parties involved in a legal dispute involving a public body. Something that is utterly obvious for any organisation that wishes to avoid corruption.
In fact what happened after the secret meetings, was that Stefan Keller, representing the state of Switzerland, was withdrawn from the case on the grounds that he was unqualified to perform legal duties because of his self-evident conflict of interest and lack of impartiality.
The investigations of the Swiss justice resumed at the end of 2021. Previously Michael Lauber, was dismissed in June 2019 from the investigation into a corruption scandal at Fifa, because of his undeclared contacts in 2016 and 2017 with Mr. Infantino. Lauber hung on to his post until July 2020, just before he lost his immunity from prosecution.
Thus one may say a pattern is appearing. And indeed a second pattern is appearing for although the story is appearing in the media across Europe, it is not appearing in England. On TV, ESPN is carrying the story, but then ESPN is not involved in broadcasting football in England. (ESPN+ has an exclusive, multi-year deal for exclusive media rights to the English Football League (EFL) and the Carabao Cup, in the USA, but nothing more.)
But in England where the entire media bought into the gloriousness of the World Cup and refrained from running any stories questioning Fifa and its decision to hold the series in Qatar, are still heavily engaged in the “Infantino is ok really” scenario and will do nothing to criticise the organisation of football either in Europe or in England.
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”.
Welcome to Infantino Land
- Megalomaniac head of Fifa makes new insane demand
- Why and how Infantino is still happy to promote the Super League.
- “Fifa will not exist in ten years time.” Or maybe even less!
- Switzerland take a greater interest in Fifa – at last
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 4 – referee variations
- The final transfer rumours: 3 new names to make 66 players tipped for Arsenal
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 3 – referee home bias
- The real live facts that the media won’t ever touch (part 2)
- Could this be the best PL season ever for Arsenal in terms of goals?