The Swiss special prosecutor has brought criminal charges against FIFA President Gianni Infantino over transactions involving the country’s Attorney General Michael Lauber.
Lauber offered to resign last week after a court alleged he hid secret meetings with the head of the football board and lied to regulators, while his office investigated alleged corruption involving FIFA.
Stefan Keller was appointed as a special prosecutor to assess criminal charges against Infantino, Lauber and other individuals. Consequently, proceedings have been initiated against Infantino and the chief prosecutor of Oberwallis, Rinaldo Arnold.
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Keller has also requested permission to initiate legal proceedings against Lauber.
According to a statement by the Swiss Federal Council, Keller had “concluded that there have been indications of criminal behavior in connection with the meetings between Attorney General Lauber and FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the chief prosecutor of Upper Valais.”
Both Infantino and Lauber have denied any wrongdoing.
The Federal Council statement added, “The presumption of innocence applies to Attorney General Michael Lauber, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Chief Prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold. The Special Federal Prosecutor is independent in his activities.”
The allegations against Infantino and Arnold “involve abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, assisting offenders and instigating these acts,” the statement said.
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Responding to Thursday’s news, Infantino said, “People remember well where FIFA was in 2015 as an institution and how substantial judicial intervention was needed to help restore the organization’s credibility.
“As FIFA President, it was my goal from day one, and it remains my goal to help the authorities investigate past abuses at FIFA. FIFA officials have spoken to prosecutors in other jurisdictions around the world for exactly these purposes.
“People have been convicted and convicted thanks to FIFA’s cooperation, especially in the United States, where our cooperation has resulted in more than 40 criminal convictions. Therefore, I continue to fully support the judicial process and FIFA remains committed to working fully for this purposes together with the Swiss authorities. “
A statement by the governing body itself stated: “FIFA acknowledges the decision of the Swiss Special Federal Prosecutor to open an inquiry into the meetings involving FIFA President and the Swiss Attorney General.
“FIFA, including the FIFA President, will remain at the disposal of the Swiss authorities and will, as we have always done, fully cooperate with this investigation.”
Infantino said last month, “A meeting with the Chief Prosecutor or Attorney General of Switzerland is perfectly legitimate and perfectly legal.”
Infantino became FIFA President in 2016 after his predecessor Sepp Blatter was forced to resign the previous year on corruption charges. In December 2015, Blatter was excluded from all football-related activities for eight years, later reduced to six on appeal.
Speaking in 2016 after being appointed as Blatter’s successor at a FIFA conference, Infantino said, “I can’t express my feelings at this time. We will restore FIFA’s image and respect, and everyone in the world will cheer us on. are finally making sure that we can focus on the beautiful football game again. “
Infantino, who previously served as Secretary-General of UEFA, was subsequently re-elected to FIFA in June 2019 and elected a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in January this year.