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Criminal proceedings against FIFA president launched in Switzerland

1 month ago 20

Criminal proceedings against FIFA president Gianni Infantino have been launched in Switzerland.

A special prosecutor was appointed this month to investigate dealings between Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber and the head of world football.

Mr Lauber offered to resign last week after a court concluded he covered up a meeting with Mr Infantino and lied to supervisors while his office probed corruption surrounding FIFA.

But the authority overseeing Switzerland's federal prosecutors announced on Thursday that special prosecutor Stefan Keller - who also requested permission to begin proceedings against the attorney general - had found indications of criminal conduct related to the meetings.

Both the accused have previously denied any wrongdoing.

Sepp Blatter has rejected claims he is corrupt

Image: Gianni Infantino replaced Sepp Blatter, who resigned over corruption allegations

Mr Infantino became FIFA president in 2016 after beating favourite Sheikh Salman over two rounds of voting in Zurich.

He replaced Sepp Blatter, who resigned a year earlier over corruption allegations.

Speaking at the time, Mr Infantino told FIFA's congress: "I cannot express my feelings in this moment.

"We will restore the image and the respect of FIFA and everyone in the world will applaud us.

"We are finally going to ensure that we can once again focus on the beautiful game of football."

He had previously held the post of UEFA general secretary since 2009, and had been backed by both Europe's football governing body and the English FA.

Welcoming his election, then-FA chairman Greg Dyke told Sky News it was a "good day" and that FIFA now had a "president we can trust".

It's five years since the dramatic pre-dawn raid at the Baur Au Lac hotel in Zurich, when Fifa officials were led from their beds and bundled into waiting cars by police; events which signalled the downfall of the deeply corrupt Sepp Blatter regime.

FIFA's reputation has taken another hit
Analysis by Martha Kelner, sports correspondent

Gianni Infantino was supposed to be the man to clean up world football's governing body and now he is the subject of open proceedings commenced by a Swiss prosecutor who claims there is an indication of criminality.

We know that this likely relates to a secret meeting in 2017 between Infantino and the Swiss Attorney General, Michael Lauber, the very man instructed to investigate the corruption at FIFA.

We have little more detail than that, and Infantino will cling to a presumption of innocence but FIFA's ethics committee is likely to face calls to suspend Infantino pending the outcome of the investigation.

They're unlikely to take that step just yet, but you can comfortably assume that if this case reaches court the Swiss Italian's position as the most senior individual in world football is under threat.

FIFA's reputation will be dragged through the mire once more.

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