Gianni Infantino can remain FIFA president and should not be forced from power while under criminal investigation, world soccer’s governing body told The Associated Press.
A Swiss special prosecutor opened a criminal case into Infantino’s conduct on Thursday over his meetings with the country’s attorney general who has been leading a sprawling investigation into football corruption.
“There is nothing preventing the president from performing his duties,” FIFA said in a statement to the AP. “He will continue to fully assume his functions within FIFA.”
The FIFA ethics committee faced calls to suspend Infantino from his predecessor, Sepp Blatter, who was toppled in disgrace in 2015 and banned from world football until 2021.
“The FIFA president is subject to a criminal investigation by the Swiss judicial authorities,” FIFA said, “but he has not been charged nor is he guilty of anything…. FIFA and its president will continue to cooperate fully with the judicial authorities in Switzerland until these investigations are concluded.”
Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber has offered to resign over the case that centers on three meetings he had with Infantino in recent years – including one that he hadn’t disclosed and claimed no memory of.
“FIFA is convinced that at the end of the current investigations it will be confirmed that the FIFA president didn’t do anything wrong by performing his fiduciary duties and meeting the attorney general of Switzerland,” FIFA said.
Infantino was elected president in the fallout from the investigations that erupted around FIFA in 2015.
Michel Platini, the favorite to succeed Blatter and then serving as UEFA president, was also suspended.
In the void, Infantino, who led the UEFA administration as general secretary, saw a route to leading FIFA. The Swiss-Italian was elected in 2016, beating Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman.
The Bahraini is senior vice president of FIFA and would likely become interim leader if Infantino was suspended.