Infantino accused of changing FIFA ethics code

Sajith B Warrier

Berlin, November 3: FIFA President Gianni Infantino has been alleged to have broken the game's global governing body's rules by interfering in the rewriting of its ethics code, according to German magazine Der Spiegel and European Investigative Collaborations, a network of international media.

FIFA's Ethics Committee, which banned and suspended dozens of officials including former FIFA President Sepp Blatter following a 2015 corruption scandal, is supposed to operate independently from the game's global governing body.

But Spiegel said leaked e-mails showed Swiss-Italian Infantino, who replaced Blatter, was behind changes to the ethics code which included a limitation period of 10 years on historical investigations into corruption and bribery.

A FIFA spokesperson said there was nothing untoward in Infantino's correspondence with the the game's body's chief ethics judge over the redrafting of the code.

The Spiegel report cites a December 2017 e-mail to Infantino from Vassilios Skouris, who took over as FIFA's chief ethics judge following Infantino's election as president.

In the e-mail Skouris sent draft changes to FIFA's ethics rules to the FIFA chief which he had been working on with chief ethics investigator Colombian Maria Claudia Rojas, Spiegel said.

Spiegel said Infantino responded with a series of amendments after describing the new code as "really excellent".

Among the complaints Infantino made in his reply, according to Spiegel, was that too many preliminary investigations had been launched against football officials.

"This provision has also been 'misused' in the past, especially mediatically (sic)," Infantino wrote, referring to media coverage of preliminary ethics investigations.

"It should be clear that even a preliminary investigation can only be carried out on the instructions of the chairman of the investigative chamber."

When the revised ethics code was presented for approval by the FIFA Congress in Moscow in June it included the changes Infantino suggested - the power of the Ethics Committee secretariat to begin preliminary investigations was removed and the need for the chairman of the investigative chamber to authorise a probe had been added.

The FIFA spokesperson said Infantino's exchange with Skouris was "entirely natural".

"When he was still the UEFA General Secretary, Mr Infantino was a member of the Reforms Committee responsible for drafting the revised FIFA Statutes adopted in February 2016.

"In his capacity as an experienced lawyer, it would have been entirely natural for him to have exchanges of this nature with Mr Skouris," the spokesperson said.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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