Well that didn’t take long.
The BBC is reporting that FIFA president Gianni Infantino is set to be interviewed by the investigatory chamber of the organization’s Ethics Committee.
Infantino, who was elected in a special election in February with a mandate to bring transparency and accountability to the infamously corrupt body, will meet with investigators in Zurich as early as tomorrow as part of a preliminary process to determine if a full investigation is warranted.
At issue is a number of allegations pointing to conflicts-of-interest raised during official visits to Russia and Qatar (respective hosts of the next two World Cups). FIFA arranged his flight to Moscow, but due to a scheduling snafu there were no flights available for Infantino to continue his trip. Russian football officials then arranged a private jet for the FIFA president and his staff to make their appointments Doha. Qatari executives then arranged travel back to Zurich.
Other allegations include:
- Infantino demanding FIFA hire a personal chauffeur for him, then directing the driver to serve family members and advisors.
- Travelling to the Champions League final on FIFA’s dime and then making a detour to Rome to seek an audience with the Pope.
- A number of personal expenses charged to FIFA, including nearly $9000 in mattresses and $7000 for an exercise machine.
- Several nominations by Infantino to fill senior positions who were exempted from full vetting, including current secretary-general Fatma Samoura.
For his part, Infantino seems confident the facts are on his side. A spokesperson for FIFA gave the following statement to the BBC:
“The FIFA president has stated publicly he fully respects the independence and work of the ethics committee and that he would provide, if required, whatever information necessary to facilitate any potential review by the committee. The president has made clear that he has acted appropriately and in accordance with Fifa’s code of ethics.”
Through unnamed sources, his allies have indicated that the allegations are politically motivated, misunderstandings trumped up by his enemies, some of whom recently left FIFA.
If the Ethics Committee uncovers sufficient evidence to warrant a full investigation, Infantino could be suspended for up to 90 days.
These fresh developments are the latest in a string of scandals dropped on Infantino’s desk since his elevation to the FIFA presidency earlier this year. Some have been fallout from before his administration, such as the criminal investigation of Jérôme Valcke, continued pressure to relocate the 2022 World Cup, and basically any time Sepp Blatter makes the news. Not to mention Infantino’s implication in the Panama Papers leak earlier this year. For a candidate elected on the promise of reform, FIFA sure seems to be carrying on much as it ever did.