World football governing body, FIFA, is standing like a rock behind its president Gianni Infantino despite criminal proceedings already launched against him.
According to FIFA there “was and is absolutely no reason to open an investigation” after criminal proceedings against Infantino were launched in Switzerland earlier this week.
The proceedings followed an investigation by a special federal public prosecutor, Stefan Keller, into complaints about meetings in 2016 and 2017 involving Infantino, attorney general Michael Lauber and the chief public prosecutor for the Upper Valais region, Rinaldo Arnold.
Keller has concluded there are “indications of criminal conduct” in connection with those meetings.
Infantino and FIFA have said they will co-operate fully with the investigation, with Infantino insisting he was trying to assist Lauber with the attorney general’s investigation into historic corruption.
Nothing remotely criminal has happened and there is nothing at all to suggest any form of criminal wrongdoing.
In June, when asked about the meetings with Lauber, Infantino had said: “To meet with the attorney general of Switzerland is perfectly legitimate and it’s perfectly legal.”
In a statement released on Sunday, FIFA said of Keller’s opening of proceedings: “There was and is absolutely no reason to open any investigation because nothing remotely criminal has happened and there is nothing at all to suggest any form of criminal wrongdoing.”
FIFA stressed that meeting a prosecutor was not illegal and that it was “entirely logical for the FIFA president to be meeting the Swiss federal prosecutor” at that time given the Office of the Swiss attorney general was conducting investigations in over 20 cases in FIFA-related matters.
Infantino attended the meetings “to offer FIFA’s full support in the investigations”, with it being “part of his fiduciary duties” to be there, and FIFA was “trying to restore trust in the institution at that time”, the statement said, adding that the meetings had not been held in secret.
FIFA said Keller has “presented no serious elements or legal basis for the opening of any investigation and lacks any detail as to the substance of the case”.
And the governing body added: “For the record, FIFA and the FIFA president categorically deny any implication or suggestion that the FIFA president would ever have attempted to exert any form of improper influence on the Swiss federal prosecutor.”
It was noted that the meetings had already been investigated by another special prosecutor, in an investigation concerning Arnold which was closed with no charges being brought.
And the statement said that this investigation had been opened “basically because some anonymous complaints were filed in the canton of Bern”, which have “caused considerable damage to FIFA and to its president Gianni Infantino, despite the fact that they have no merit whatsoever”.
It concluded: “The FIFA president will continue to fully assume his functions within FIFA and fulfill his duties and will continue to cooperate with the authorities in Switzerland and around the world.”