Swiss police have raided the offices of European football’s governing body UEFA to seize evidence of a suspect television rights deal. The contract was personally signed off by then UEFA General Secretary – now FIFA President – Gianni Infantino.
Several media outlets have reported on the document that was among a trove of leaked data from Panamanian law firm Mossak Fonseca. The TV rights deal was struck with two Argentine businessmen, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, who were later indicted in the United States for alleged corruption.
The pair, who owned an Argentine company called Cross Trading, then allegedly sold the rights to broadcast Europe’s top Champions League club competition in South America for a price almost three times higher to Teleamazonas, a broadcaster in Ecuador, reports said.
On Wednesday evening, police searched UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon for the documents. The raid follows separate Swiss and United States criminal investigations into alleged widespread corruption in the game.
“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 Office of the Attorney General (OAG) stated: "The OAG's 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."
Infantino said it was essential that "all elements" of the deal came to light "for the sake of transparency and clarity".
"If my determination to restore football’s reputation was already very strong, it is now even stronger. I welcome any investigation conducted into this matter," he said in a FIFA statement.
"Based on these documents, it is clear that all contractual matters were conducted properly by UEFA. Should I be required to contribute to bringing further clarification on the matter, I will of course gladly do so. It is in my interest and in the interest of football that everything should come to light."
In an earlier statement he denied any wrongdoing in connection with the deal that was struck several years ago.
“I am dismayed and will not accept that my integrity is being doubted by certain areas of the media, especially given that UEFA has already disclosed in detail all facts regarding these contracts,” he stated.
“Moreover, as media themselves report, there is no indication whatsoever for any wrongdoings from neither UEFA nor myself in this matter.”
Infantino was elected as head of FIFA in February, vowing to lead the body out of years of corruption and scandal which saw his Swiss predecessor Sepp Blatter banned for six years.
The documents were part of the 11 million that were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in what have become known as the Panama Papers.
While offshore accounts are not in themselves illegal, the documents have caused public outrage over how the world’s rich and powerful are able to move money around and avoid taxes.
Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, denies any wrongdoing.
UEFA was also dismayed at the media reports, which it said were a slur on Infantino.
“There was never any suggestion that anything improper took place,” it said, adding that the media had “misrepresented” the facts without elaborating.
“This attempted slur on [Infantino]’s character and on the reputation of UEFA, based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, is not only a sad day for football but also a sad day for journalism.”
It added that the broadcast rights in question “were awarded after an open tender conducted by TEAM Marketing [UEFA’s broadcasting and marketing partner], acting on behalf of UEFA”.
“The rights were awarded to Teleamazonas/Cross Trading because they made the highest offer on the market,” it said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies