The chairmen of the Ethics Committee was fired by Gianni Infantino because they investigated him.
By Pål Ødegård (firstname.lastname@example.org) ) and Håvard Melnæs
Josimar have confirmation that FIFA President Gianni Infantino was indeed in the process of being investigated by the Ethics Committee for interfering in the CAF presidential elections in March this year. As reported right after the relatively unknown Ahmed Ahmed ousted Issa Hayatou as CAF President in Addis Abeba, Infantino played a major role in securing the victory for the Malagasy . This is a clear violation of FIFA regulations, which state that FIFA cannot influence elections held by its member confederations.
In April, an article published by Der Spiegel claimed that this led to the FIFA Ethics Committee initiating preliminary investigations into the FIFA President’s actions. At the FIFA Congress in Bahrain two weeks ago, neither Cornel Borbély nor Hans-Joachim Eckert, chairmen of the Ethics Committees, got a renewal of their mandate for another four-year term, something they only learned from news sites upon landing in Bahrain.
According to the German FA President and FIFA Council member Reinhard Grindel the move against the chairmen of Ethics Committee was the initiative of FIFA President Gianni Infantino:
“I said in the meeting that we were satisfied with the work of both [Borbély and Eckert] and I asked because the Secretary General [Samoura] made a statement in the media that they will support both, so it is very much the decision of the president [Infantino]. And you will have to ask him why he made it. I want to clearly say that I would have wished that the process of formation of the individual committees – ethics, governance and disciplinary – would have been more transparent”.
The dismissed chairmen of the Ethics Committee held a hastily assembled press conference in Bahrain, where Cornel Borbély, until then the chairman of the Ethics Committee’s Investigatory Chamber, said that “hundreds of open cases would now be halted” and lamented that there would be no period of transition. “They do not have the experience,” Borbély said. “You have to develop this practice, this knowhow. It’s a question how long it takes for the new chamber to investigate these cases to the level that will bring success.”, he then added.
A one man show?
Gianni Infantino had talked and met with Borbély’s replacement, the Colombian María Claudia Rojas, three weeks ahead of the congress in Bahrain. First over the telephone, and then in person during a CONMEBOL assembly in Santiago, Chile. Officially Rojas was launched by CONMEBOL, who had been asked to present candidates for the independent positions in FIFA’s controlling committees. It is questionable behaviour by the FIFA President to nurture personal contact with someone who would later have the task to investigate him.
It is also hard not to conclude that the FIFA President have removed the very persons investigating him. Another who was removed in Bahrain without any knowledge beforehand, was the chairman of the Governance Committee, Miguel Maduro, who had just been in the position for eight months. Sources tell Josimar that the Governance Committee was notified about Infantino’s interference in the CAF elections, and subsequently passed on the information to the Ethics Committee. The committee Maduro presided over also had the responsibility to assess whether officials could be cleared to run for a seat in the FIFA Council. It has been speculated that the former FIFA Council member and chairman of Russia’s World Cup Organizing Committee, Vitaly Mutko, not passing the eligibility check led to Maduro’s downfall. Three other members of the Governance Committee resigned in protest over Maduro’s removal.
The CAF election was not the first time Gianni Infantino meddled in a confederations election. The FIFA President turned to two of his closest allies – the Norwegian Kjetil Siem and Vitaly Mutko – in getting Aleksander Čeferin elected as UEFA President.