UEFA broke no rules in grant­ing €4 mil­lion Slove­nian loan

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

After an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, UEFA has found that for­mer gen­eral sec­re­tary Gianni In­fantino and cur­rent pres­i­dent Alek­sander Ce­ferin did not break any rules when the gov­ern­ing body of Euro­pean soc­cer sent a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar loan to the Slove­nian fed­er­a­tion.

The 4 mil­lion euro deal for a bet­ting com­pany in­vest­ment in June 2015 — which an in­ter­nal UEFA report says was “granted in real ex­cep­tion” — has been scru­ti­nized be­cause it was signed off by In­fantino and Ce­ferin. They have since won un­ex­pected elec­tions as pres­i­dents of FIFA and UEFA, re­spec­tively.

A Nor­we­gian mag­a­zine re­ported that FIFA ethics pros­e­cu­tors are in­ves­ti­gat­ing In­fantino’s part in the loan. It said UEFA flouted fi­nan­cial pro­to­col to ap­prove the money, and noted that FIFA’s code of ethics pro­hibits in­di­vid­u­als from in­vest­ing in soc­cer gam­bling op­er­a­tors.

The UEFA dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee asked its in­ves­ti­ga­tions unit to report on claims ini­tially made by Scan­di­na­vian me­dia last month.

The in­quiry doc­u­ment, seen by The As­so­ci­ated Press, con­cluded that UEFA and the Slove­nian fed­er­a­tion “re­spected the rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions and con­di­tions” of grant­ing loans to mem­bers.

The doc­u­ment noted that FIFA’s eth­i­cal rules on bet­ting and in­tegrity of matches re­late to “per­sons,” not in­sti­tu­tions. The code, there­fore, does “nei­ther ap­ply to UEFA, nor to na­tional as­so­ci­a­tions,” the doc­u­ment con­cludes.

De­spite UEFA’s in­ter­nal report, FIFA ethics pros­e­cu­tors can in­de­pen­dently seek ev­i­dence and de­mand wit­ness state­ments. How­ever, it is un­clear if an early stage probe has be­gun.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tory cham­ber of the FIFA ethics com­mit­tee said it would never con­firm an on­go­ing pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry. But that can lead to a for­mal case being opened, which would typ­i­cally be an­nounced.

The mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar loan from UEFA was de­tailed last month after FIFA built closer links to Slove­nia.

In July, FIFA ap­pointed Slove­nia state au­di­tor To­maz Ve­sel to chair its in­de­pen­dent au­dit and com­pli­ance com­mit­tee and a panel which sets salaries.

Nor­we­gian mag­a­zine Josi­mar re­ported that Ve­sel plays on an am­a­teur soc­cer team with Ce­ferin, who it claimed was sup­ported by In­fantino’s staff in what be­came a land­slide win for the UEFA pres­i­dency in Septem­ber.

In­ter­viewed by the AP last week, Ce­ferin de­scribed re­ports seek­ing to im­pli­cate him as “mos­quito bites” helped by an old guard of soc­cer in­sid­ers op­pos­ing him.

The report says In­fantino was not di­rectly in­volved in Slove­nia’s for­mal re­quest in De­cem­ber 2014, which had “one sole known and well-doc­u­mented aim” — to buy a 17.3 per­cent share of the state lot­tery Sportna lo­ter­ija. The own­ers in­clude the Slove­nian Olympic com­mit­tee and na­tional ski fed­er­a­tion.

UEFA said its loan pol­icy is “to co-fi­nance strate­gic projects with a last­ing im­pact and can never be granted to sup­port bad man­age­ment or wrong de­ci­sions.”

Slove­nia got “ex­cep­tional” treat­ment at two stages of the process, the report ac­knowl­edged, though notes that UEFA pre­vi­ously granted 25 loans to mem­ber fed­er­a­tions.

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