FIFA boss Infantino questioned by Swiss special prosecutors

FIFA President Gianni Infantino meets the media at the FIFA World Cup closing press conference in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA President Gianni Infantino met with special prosecutors in Switzerland on Tuesday as part of their criminal investigation into his undisclosed meetings with the country’s attorney general during a wider probe of soccer officials.

Criminal proceedings against Infantino were recommended in 2020 by a previous special prosecutor — who was later removed from the case by a Swiss federal court – for possible incitements to commit an abuse of public office and breach of official secrecy.

The case potentially implicating Infantino is now moving forward in his home country, weeks after he oversaw the World Cup in Qatar and about two months before he is due to be re-elected unopposed by FIFA member federations.

Special prosecutor Hans Maurer confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that “a confrontation hearing was held in the proceedings,” conducted by himself and a second prosecutor, Ulrich Weder.

“However, I do not comment on the time, scope and purpose of this hearing,” Maurer wrote.

The two prosecutors were elected at the Swiss parliament in December 2021 to continue an investigation relating to three undocumented meetings held in 2016 and 2017 involving Infantino and then-attorney general Michael Lauber.

The meetings started soon after Infantino was elected FIFA president in the fallout from American and Swiss investigations of suspected corruption in international soccer that forced his predecessor Sepp Blatter out of office.

After the meetings were revealed by media reports starting in 2018, both Lauber and Infantino said the meetings were routine but claimed not to recall details or to have taken notes.

Lauber was ousted from his job after being found to have misled and obstructed a federal office overseeing prosecutors, which had sought more information about the meetings.

FIFA declined to comment Tuesday on the questioning of its president.

Soccer’s world body has previously said “both FIFA and the FIFA president are fully available to cooperate with the authorities, whether that concerns meetings that the FIFA president had with the former Attorney General of Switzerland, or anything else.”

Infantino is due to be re-elected for a four-year presidential term at a March 16 election meeting in Rwanda. His unopposed candidacy must pass FIFA’s eligibility and integrity check.

Blatter and Michel Platini, Infantino’s former boss at European soccer body UEFA, were acquitted last year by a Swiss federal judge of financial wrongdoing with FIFA money.

That case came to trial nearly seven years after the allegations surfaced, which removed Platini from the contest to succeed Blatter. Infantino then became European soccer’s candidate for the FIFA presidency.