Swiss police search UEFA offices over TV deal

Swiss police searched the headquarters of European football body UEFA in Nyon on Wednesday and were handed details of a contract with an offshore marketing agency signed off by new FIFA president and former UEFA executive Gianni Infantino.

UEFA said it cooperated with the police visit, which was carried out after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the latest revelations from the Panama Papers leak.

"UEFA can confirm that today we received a visit from the office of the Swiss Federal Police acting under a warrant and requesting sight of the contracts between UEFA and Cross Trading/Teleamazonas," UEFA said in a statement.

"Naturally, UEFA is providing the Federal Police with all relevant documents in our possession and will cooperate fully.”

The Swiss Attorney General's Office said it conducted a search "on a cooperative basis" and "within the scope of ongoing criminal proceedings" to collect evidence at UEFA headquarters "and at another enterprise."

Documents show that Infantino, as then UEFA's legal services director, co-signed contracts on Champions League TV rights with a company co-owned by Argentinian Hugo Jinkis, who was indicted in the United States in May as part of an alleged 100-million-dollar fraud.

Infantino issued a statement saying he welcomed "any investigation" relating to the contracts. Based on the documents it was "clear that all contractual matters were conducted properly by UEFA," he said.

"If my determination to restore football’s reputation was already very strong, it is now even stronger," he added.

"It is in my interest and in the interest of football that everything should come to light."

Reports from media outlets including Germany's Sueddeutsche zeitung (SZ) said that Infantino signed the 2006 contract for Ecuador, at 111,000 dollars, with Cross Trading, owned by brothers Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, whom US authorities want extradited in the corruption probe.

The rights were then sold to an Ecuadorian broadcaster for 311,170 dollars.

The Attorney General's office in Switzerland said Wednesday the search at UEFA "was motivated by the suspicion of criminal mismanagement" and "misappropriation."

"The OAG’s (Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland) criminal proceedings are in connection with the acquisition of television rights and are at present directed against persons unknown, meaning that for the time being, no specific individual is being targeted by these proceedings," a statement said.

UEFA said late Tuesday that "the rights in question were awarded after an open tender" went to the highest bidder, and that "neither UEFA nor Gianni Infantino have ever been contacted by any authorities in connection with this particular contract.

"There was never any suggestion that anything improper took place," UEFA said.

Infantino was elected FIFA president to succeed compatriot Joseph Blatter on February 26 and vowed to put football back at the centre at FIFA which has been battered by corruption allegations.

He and UEFA initially denied having done business with any of the 14 indicted, according to the SZ.

But UEFA has now acknowledged the Cross Trading deal, explaining that "at the time of our initial response we had not had the opportunity to check each and every one of our (thousands) of commercial contracts and so the answer given was initially incomplete."

FIFA's ethics committee meanwhile has no plans for a preliminary investigation against Infantino in connection with the contract, dpa learned.

Last update: Wed, 06/04/2016 - 20:50

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