Is Slovenian lottery loan deal coming back to haunt Infantino?

By Andrew Warshaw

October 6 – The Norwegian publication that has run a series of investigative reports into whether Gianni Infantino is fit for FIFA president has thrown up yet more questions about his credentials, this time involving his relationship with new UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin.

Last month fresh doubts were raised over whether FIFA’s new audit and compliance chief Tomaz Vesel was eligible for the job and whether Infantino worked behind the scenes to manoeuvre the Slovenian into the role vacated in May by Domenico Scala.

Scala resigned in protest when the FIFA congress passed a motion, orchestrated by Infantino’s office, that allowed for members of independent governance bodies to be hired and fired until next year’s congress, in effect putting their independence on hold for a year even though most delegates had no idea what they were really voting for.

Infantino has dismissed accusations that he engineered Vesel’s appointment in order to get rid of Scala after the pair spectacularly fell out. But Josimar said it was in possession of documents that prove Vesel’s appointment broke FIFA’s own statutes.

Quoting the FIFA governance regulation that any “chairman or deputy chairman of its independent committees cannot have held any official function at a national or confederation level, including the four years previous to initial term”, Josimar claims Vesel is in breach of that rule.

Now the publication goes back on the attack against Infantino, raking up his past dealings with the Slovenian FA, of which Ceferin is president, at the time he was UEFA’s general secretary.

Although Infantino was recently exonerated by FIFA’s ethics committee of any wrongdoing following a spate of allegations linked to his FIFA presidency,  Josimar, in conjunction with a Danish  newspaper Ekstra Bladet, suggest he may have breached FIFA rules while he was Michel Platini’s number two at UEFA.

The reports allege that during the summer of 2015 UEFA granted Slovenian FA a loan of 4 million euro. €3.6 million euro, claims the Norwegian and Danish reports, was spent on buying 17.3 % of the total shares in the online lottery company Sportna Loterija.

Asked whether UEFA would ever grant a member association a loan intended for the acquisition of such shares, UEFA executive committee member Allan Hansen of Denmark, was quoted as saying: “No, I could not imagine that.”

Ekstra Bladet says UEFA answered the claims as follows: “It is quite common for UEFA to issue loans to national associations. Of course loans granted have to go through an approval process by UEFA. The funds have to be spent on strategic or operational football related matters. Loan agreements are signed at arm’s lengths with market related interests and clear repayment terms. This particular request followed normal procedure and was approved by five people at UEFA including our president, general secretary and chairman of the finance committee. The loan was used for a state lottery company which made sense from a football strategic point of view.”

However, Josimar and Ekstra Bladet claim it should have been the Finance Committee that approved such loans – not the President and Secretary General.

If the latest accusations are true, then Infantino could find himself in hot water once again with ethics officials for breaching article 25 of FIFA’s code of ethics covering integrity since such loans have to be spent on football-related matters.

The article in question states as follows: “Persons bound by this Code shall be forbidden from taking part in, either directly or indirectly, or otherwise being associated with, betting, gambling, lotteries and similar events or transactions connected with football matches. They are forbidden from having stakes, either actively or passively, in companies, concerns, organisations, etc. that promote, broker, arrange or conduct such events or transactions.”

At his first overseas visit to London last month, Ceferin ridiculed the accusations. “It’s all completely clear and UEFA has all the documents and I was even not involved in this,” he said. Infantino seemingly was involved in this loan and although he has now moved on to FIFA he is likely to be asked about the issue when he meets the media following FIFA’s first full ruling Council meeting next week.

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