New Fifa president and former Uefa secretary general Gianni Infantino has been dragged into the Panama Papers affair. EPA/PATRICK B. KRAEMER
New Fifa president and former Uefa secretary general Gianni Infantino has been dragged into the Panama Papers affair. EPA/PATRICK B. KRAEMER

Fifa boss linked to Panama Papers affair

By Dean Kirby Time of article published Apr 7, 2016

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Swiss police have raided the offices of European football's governing body to seize evidence of a television rights deal hours after its former secretary general Gianni Infantino was dragged into the Panama Papers affair.

Federal investigators raided Uefa's offices in Nyon and seized a contract signed off by Mr Infantino, which was struck with two businessmen who have since been accused by the FBI of bribery.

Mr Infantino, who is now head of football's world governing body Fifa, has denied any wrongdoing. Uefa says it is passing all relevant documents in its possession to the police.

The raid took place following the publication of the latest revelations after 11 million documents were leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The papers show that Mr Infantino co-signed the contract with a firm, Cross Trading, owned by Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano, which bought South American broadcasting rights for football competitions including the Uefa Champions League in 2006.

Cross Trading immediately sold the rights on to another broadcaster, Teleamazonas, for nearly three times the amount paid. Hugo Jinkis and his son are fighting extradition from Argentina to the United States.

Prosecutors alleged in May last year that, as owners of Cross Trading, they paid millions of dollars in bribes to South American football officials over several years in order to gain lucrative television rights for regional football tournaments.

Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General said in a statement a “co-operative search” had taken place “for the purpose of securing evidence”.

It said its criminal proceedings were connected with the acquisition of television rights and were “directed against persons unknown, meaning that for the time being, no specific individual is being targeted”.

It said: “The suspicion is based on the result of findings that have emerged from other proceedings, as well as the corresponding financial analyses carried out by OAG.

“Current publications in the media subsequently revealed still other elements that made it possible to complement the existing findings in a decisive manner.

“The final impetus was provided, in particular, by confirmation on the part of Uefa that it had concluded contracts with Cross Trading SA.”

Uefa initially denied doing business with any of the 14 people indicted by the FBI in its investigation into corruption in world football.

The BBC said it had now been told by Uefa that the TV rights were sold to the highest bidder in an open and competitive tendering process.

Uefa said it has been “conducting a review of its various commercial contracts” since the US indictments in May last year.

Mr Infantino said earlier that he is “dismayed” that his “integrity is being doubted” and had contacted Uefa “to seek clarity”.

He said he had “never personally dealt with Cross Trading nor their owners” because the tender process was conducted by Team Marketing on behalf of Uefa.

“I would like to state on the record that neither Uefa nor I have ever been contacted by any authorities in relation to these particular contracts,” he said earlier.

“Moreover, as media themselves report, there is no indication whatsoever for any wrongdoing from neither Uefa nor myself in this matter.” – The Independent

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