After the opening of criminal proceedings against Gianni Infantino, president of Fifa, the ethics committee of the body has the power to open an investigation: this body supposed to clean up the international federation therefore finds itself under pressure, forced to demonstrate its independence. For the professor of Swiss law Mark Pieth, the same one who led the reform of the internal justice of Fifa in 2011 to make it more autonomous, no doubt, "the ethics commission must open an investigation", a he declared to AFP.
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In this, he joins Miguel Poiares Maduro, ex-president of the governance committee of the body, who estimated in the newspaper Le Monde that "now, the ethics commission must do something", considering that Mr. Infantino is likely for having violated Articles 13 and 14 of the FIFA Code of Ethics (rules of general conduct and duty of neutrality). Mr. Infantino has been targeted since Thursday by criminal proceedings in Switzerland, the extraordinary federal prosecutor considering that there are "elements of reprehensible behavior in connection with the meeting between the attorney general Michael Lauber, the president of Fifa and the first prosecutor of Upper Valais ”, Rinaldo Arnold, childhood friend of Mr. Infantino.
"Neither impartiality nor independence"
The offenses concerned are “abuse of authority”, “violation of official secrecy” and “obstruction of criminal proceedings”. Fifa said Sunday that Sepp Blatter's successor would remain in office despite the procedure. She also assured Monday that Mr. Infantino, elected in 2016 on a reform program, would respect "any decision of the ethics commission", but that there was however "no evidence of criminal behavior or contrary to ethics, ”according to FIFA Deputy Secretary General Alasdair Bell.
“When we reformed the ethics commission, explains Mr. Pieth, this was the most essential point: it had to be independent from the president (...) But already, I was very surprised that no investigation be opened when it was revealed that Mr. Infantino had used a private jet to return from Suriname in 2017 ”, claiming an urgent meeting. Today, while the secretariat of the ethics commission is placed under the direction of the Italian lawyer Mario Gallavotti, close to Infantino, "the ethics commission has no impartiality or no independence", judge Mr. Pieth , who teaches criminal law at the University of Basel.
Cornel Borbély and Hans Joachim Eckert, the two former presidents of the internal FIFA court, who suspended Mr. Blatter and Michel Platini a few days after their hearing as part of an investigation by the Swiss justice for a payment of CHF 2 million (1.8 M €) from the first to the second, saw their mandate not renewed in May 2017. They were replaced by the Colombian Maria Claudia Rojas (in the instruction) and the Greek Vassilios Skouris (judgment). For a good connoisseur of the case, preferring to remain anonymous, “it may be that for the form, Ms. Rojas opens an investigation. But from there to suspend Infantino temporarily ... ”, underlines this source, without finishing his sentence.
However, in the past, the commission had not hesitated to temporarily suspend senior officials, including President Blatter a few days after the initiation of proceedings, or even in the absence of legal proceedings. “I'm sure Mr. Infantino will power Rojas up. He will try everything to spread a thick fog ”, for his part estimated Mr. Eckert in Le Monde . For another expert in the functioning of the ethics commission, “an investigation must be opened, if only to meet the requirement of transparency that Mr. Infantino constantly puts forward. But the problem with Fifa is that to defend their own interests, they will protect the president even if they know it is a bad strategy ”.
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