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Wednesday 23 May 2018

New FIFA chief Gianni Infantino dragged into corruption scandal by Panama Leaks

Gianni Infantino. Picture: PA
Gianni Infantino. Picture: PA newsdesk

FIFA’s new head of world football has been implicated in the sport’s corruption scandal - a new Panama Papers leak has claimed.

The Guardian is reporting that files will raise questions about the role Gianni Infantino played in deals that were concluded when he was director of legal services at Uefa, European football’s governing body.

According to records seen by the newspaper, Uefa concluded offshore deals with one of the indicted figures at the heart of an alleged “World Cup of fraud”. The body had previously claimed it had no dealings with any of them.

The newspaper claims it has uncovered contracts from 2003 and 2006, which were co-signed by Infantino. It is reported that they link Uefa for the first time to one of the companies involved in the huge unfolding scandal that has brought down former Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Uefa has denied any wrongdoing by any of its officials or any other marketing partner.

It said the contracts were all above board. The sporting body has previously insisted Infantino had no dealings with any of the officials currently under investigation – or their companies.

Infantino hit back tonight saying he was "dismayed" and will not accept" that his integrity is being doubted.

Infantino said: "I am dismayed and will not accept that my integrity is being doubted by certain areas of the media, especially given that UEFA has already disclosed in detail all facts regarding these contracts.

"From the moment I was made aware of the latest media enquiries on the matter, I immediately contacted UEFA to seek clarity.
"I did this because I am no longer with UEFA, and it is they who exclusively possess all contractual information relating to this query.

"In the meantime, UEFA has announced that it has been conducting a review of its numerous commercial contracts and has answered extensively all media questions related to these specific contracts."

The latest claims are part of a leak of more than 11 million financial documents from a Panamanian law firm showing tax-avoidance arrangements of the rich and famous around the world.

Swiss-Italian Infantino became Blatter’s successor in February. After taking over the crisis-hit organisation he vowed to restore its image.


Earlier FIFA's independent ethics committee said it had launched an investigation into one of its own members over allegations related to the 'Panama Papers' leak.

Uruguayan lawyer Juan Pedro Damiani is the subject of the investigation which will look at alleged links between him and his compatriot Eugenio Figueredo, the former FIFA vice-president who was arrested last year on corruption charges by the United States Department of Justice.

A statement from the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee said: "We confirm that on March 19 the investigatory chamber of the independent ethics committee was informed by the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber, Hans-Joachim Eckert, about becoming recently aware of a business relationship between the member of the adjudicatory chamber Juan Pedro Damiani, and Eugenio Figueredo.

"After receiving the information Dr Cornel Borbely, chairman of the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, has immediately opened a preliminary investigation to review the allegations in question.

"Dr Borbely is currently looking into said allegations in order to determine if there is a breach against the FIFA code of ethics and decide any further measures."

Figueredo, a former president of the South American confederation CONMEBOL, was one of the seven officials from FIFA, football's world governing body, who were arrested at the request of US authorities in a dawn raid in Zurich in May 2015.

He was accused of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars from a Uruguayan sports marketing company in connection with the sale of marketing rights to the Copa America tournaments in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023. Figueredo was extradited from Switzerland to his native Uruguay in December last year.

Damiani and his law firm did work for at least seven offshore companies linked to Figueredo, according to the 'Panama Papers'.

The website also says Damiani's law firm served as an intermediary for a Nevada-based company linked to Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, a father-and-son pair of Argentinian businessmen who the US Department of Justice last year indicted along with nine FIFA officials and other corporate executives for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption.

The website says the records do not show illegal conduct by Damiani or his law firm.

A further statement from the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee on Monday said Damiani had not been suspended.

The statement added: "We are not in a position to comment further on the details of the preliminary investigations.

"We would like to point out that Mr Damiani is presumed innocent until a decision has been passed by the adjudicatory chamber."

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