FIFA on the edge? Decision expected on Infantino probe this week

FIFA sign

By Andrew Warshaw

July 18 – Under-fire FIFA president Gianni Infantino should learn this week whether he is to be formally investigated for breaking ethics rules.

Infantino, reported to have been interrogated last Friday, denies any wrongdoing but has been accused of unlawful hiring and firing, using unauthorised private jets and inflating his expenses.

It is believed 18 interviews have already been undertaken by ethics personnel following weeks of rumours that Infantino was under preliminary investigation.  If it is concluded there is enough evidence to launch formal proceedings, he could face temporary suspension after less than five months in the job.

FIFA has been hit by a spate of high-profile departures in recent weeks, most of them orchestrated in behind-the-scenes manoevring. Earlier this month, two more senior personnel were shown the door in the latest purge aimed at suppressing opposition to Infantino’s increasingly shaky presidency.

The head of FIFA’s travel department, Severin Podolak, and the chief of the general secretary’s office, Christoph Schmidt, both left the organisation after allegedly becoming whistleblowers by  passing files to ethics chiefs about Infantino’s suspect conduct.

Infantino’s supporters reject any suggestion that he is covering his tracks by getting rid of opponents. But a raft of decision makers have already been forced out including audit and compliance chief Domenico Scala and finance boss Markus Kattner. Their exits preceded a leaked 11-page FIFA internal memo which listed a number of irregularities and suggested Infantino’s conduct represented a possible conflict of interest.

In all, four whistleblowers are understood have come forward with information about Infantino who replaced Blatter in February promising to “restore the image and respect of FIFA”.

As well as Podolak and Schmidt, both Kattner and Jin (sic) Huegin, a former high-ranking compliance official, are understood to have been in contact with ethics investigators who were believed to have been studying the files at the weekend, with a decision imminent.  “It could be made early this week,” said one source familiar with ethics proceedings. “I would say the chances of Infantino being investigated are 50-50.”

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