ZURICH. — FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, says he is receiving tremendous support from across the globe amid dark clouds hovering over his leadership of world football.
A few days ago, he took the unusual step of writing to the heads of football associations to appraise them on the criminal investigations into him.
Infantino wrote to each of the 211 FA bosses, including ZIFA president Felton Kamambo, a letter in which he addressed issues which led to the criminal investigation being launched against him. FIFA have also come out guns blazing, in full support of their president, even though the world football governing body are not the one under investigation.
They have allowed their boss to remain in office during the investigations.
Two days after Infantino’s letter, FIFA general-secretary Fatma Samoura and deputy general secretary Alasdair Bell, followed up with their own letter to FIFA member association presidents.
They referenced Infantino’s letter — and “categorically” saying there is no case for their boss to answer.
“We categorically reject any suggestion of wrongdoing by the FIFA president,’’ they wrote.
“Furthermore, and since there is absolutely nothing to hide, we will of course cooperate fully with this investigation.’’
A few days earlier, Infantino had written to Kamambo and 210 other FA presidents.
“This new investigation has now been opened by the Swiss special prosecutor because some anonymous complaints were filed against me in the canton of Bern,’’ Infantino said in his letter.
“Not knowing the content of those anonymous complaints, we can only speculate as to why they were filed and who is behind them. Hopefully, the facts will emerge one day.”
Infantino says the meetings with Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, were broadly to discuss the fact that Lauber’s office was investigating a series of criminal allegations in which FIFA was a damaged party.
He said, in the letter to the associations, that the meetings were “in no way secret and most certainly not illegal” but admitted that the mere existence of an investigation had already “caused considerable damage to FIFA as an organisation and to myself as its president”.
“I, obviously, also remain at your disposal for any clarification or further information that you might need, as this is also about our organisation, your organisation, the one that we all represent and must defend.
“It goes without saying that the mere fact of meeting a state prosecutor ought to be the best guarantee that any such meeting is legitimate.
“Especially, when you are meeting the most senior prosecutor in the country.
“Because, if there were even the slightest suggestion of any wrongdoing, a prosecutor would, and should, intervene immediately to prevent it, as part of his or her basic legal and professional responsibility.”
Infantino said he had received many messages of support since it was announced that an investigation had opened.
He insisted he had “nothing to hide.”
The special prosecutor has been investigating suspected collusion between Infantino and Lauber, who resigned last month over his handling of a corruption investigation targeting FIFA.
Infantino and Lauber are said to have held a series of secret meetings in 2016 and 2017, but the FIFA head said the meetings were about restoring “public trust in our institution” after a series of scandals.
He claims that those meetings “were in no way secret and most certainly not illegal”.
“I went to these meetings with the most senior law officer in the country in order to offer our full support and assistance in connection with the ongoing investigations, because FIFA has an interest and is a damaged party in these investigations,” Infantino wrote.
Speaking to AFP, Infantino’s lawyer David Zollinger said that since the announcement of the investigation his client had not received “any information” from the prosecutor and “has not been summoned” to any hearings.
Zollinger denies any conflict of interest, saying that his last meetings at the supervisory authority “took place in June and July of 2016 and at that time no one was aware of the meetings between Lauber and Infantino”.
FIFA, as Bell has previously pointed out, are not under criminal investigation.
Infantino says in his letter that the criminal investigation “only motivates me to do even more to make football better moving forward”.
The FIFA leadership have clearly taken a combative tone to fight what they believe is an agenda to try and topple the leadership of Infantino.
A few days ago, they revealed that the former chairman of the FIFA Independent Governance Committee was paid about US$712 an hour, US$5 477 a day and about US$2.7 million for “doing nothing”.
Mark Pieth, who is a professor of criminal law at Basel University in Switzerland, is widely considered to be close to former FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter.
He has been critical of Infantino of late.
It was revealed that a member of his team of consultants, Damien Heller, was paid 500 Swiss francs per hour, his name appears on invoices which show he billed FIFA for things like “dinner with IGC (Independent Governance Committee)”.
“Even the “publishing (of) IGC documents on the institute’s website,’’ according to the Swiss media reports, were also billed for FIFA to meet the bills.
Just talking to journalists, said the reports, was billed with FIFA footing the costs.
“Conversations with journalists are also regularly included in the invoices, the medium and names of the reporters are precisely listed,’’ the reports said.
“Costs for meetings — 200 000 francs. The papers also show that each member of the Reform Commission (IGC) received 5 000 francs per day, plus travel expenses in business class (8 000 francs flight).’’
FIFA’s deputy general secretary, Bell, said critics like Pieth needed to look themselves in the mirror before they accuse others, including Infantino, of any possible wrong doing.
“So, the next time Mr. Pieth and his partners publicly comment on the new FIFA and Gianni Infantino, they could also point out, for the sake of transparency and “good governance,” how much money they made from the old FIFA and Sepp Blatter.’’ — Sports Reporter/AP/AFP.