By Andrew Warshaw
November 9 – Swiss prosecutors have launched an investigation into alleged suspicious links between Gianni Infantino and a senior judicial official who comes from the same area of the country as the FIFA president.
Media reports claim Valais prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold facilitated secret meetings between Infantino and Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber whose office has been investigating numerous strands of alleged corruption within FIFA since 2015.
The Valais office has now appointed a so-called extraordinary prosecutor to shed light on the relationship between Infantino and Arnold, chief prosecutor in Infantino’s home region of Upper Valais, following claims made by the Football Leaks whistleblowing website.
The claims say Arnold, who grew up in the same city as Infantino and is president of sixth division FC Brig-Glis – who Infantino once played for – received invitations to World Cup matches in Russia as well as the FIFA Congress in Mexico in May 2016 and the Champions League Final in Milan that year.
A statement from the Public Prosecutor’s Office said it had “decided to entrust a special prosecutor with the task of establishing precisely the facts and determining whether or not they would be subject to criminal law.”
Arnold says his relationship with Infantino is entirely private and FIFA insists there has never been any impropriety in its dealings with the attorney general’s office.
Swiss parliamentarian Hans Stöckli told Swiss public television, RTS, he intends to raise the issue but in a recent briefing with selected reporters, Infantino vehemently defended his position asking ironically whether it was “ forbidden in Switzerland to have friends.”
“I am very happy and proud to have Rinaldo (Arnold) as a friend,” he said. “He is also president of Brig and works hard for football. ”
“There are more serious questions that can be, are and will be studied by justice and we will come to a fair conclusion.”
In a further twist, Lauber has reportedly suspended his chief investigator for economic crimes, Olivier Thormann, whose overall role apparently included criminal proceedings related to football and FIFA investigations. It is unclear why he has been released or the exact nature of the charges against him.
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