(WFI) FIFA’s clean-up under new president Gianni Infantinio was dealt a blow after a member of its ethics committee was placed under investigation for business links to a vice president charged with corruption.
The investigatory arm of FIFA’s ethics committee has launched a probe into one of its own, Juan Pedro Damiani, after being alerted to a “business relationship” between the Uruguayan lawyer and Eugenio Figueredo.
In the ‘Panama Papers’ – a tranche of 11.5 million documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca – Damiani and his law firm are said to have worked with three men indicted in the FIFA scandal which erupted last year. They are Figueredo plus Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, the father-son team accused of paying bribes to win broadcast rights to Latin American football events. The records show that Damiani’s law firm represented an offshore company linked to the Jinkises and seven companies linked to Figueredo.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi, disgraced former UEFA president Michel Platini and former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, banned for 12 years in February over a series of misconduct charges, are also named in the leaks.
The Panama Papers show how the world’s rich and powerful laundered money, evaded tax and avoided sanctions. The documents were shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. A total of 107 media organisations in 78 countries have analysed the documents.
Figueredo was one of seven FIFA officials arrested in a raid by Swiss police on a luxury hotel in Zurich on the eve of the 2015 FIFA Congress, part of the U.S. and Swiss probes into a wide-ranging FIFA corruption scandal. He was later charged by US authorities with wire fraud and money laundering.
The Panama Papers do not prove illegal conduct by Damiani or his law firm but raises questions about a conflict of interest in serving FIFA.
Damiani told Reuters on Sunday that he severed ties with Figueredo when the former FIFA ExCo official was accused of corruption.
“We (had) worked with Figueredo (but) when the (FIFA) issue came to light we immediately ended a professional link. My (law) firm is a firm of 60 people, not just me. Until May 2015, Figueredo appeared to be a straight person,” he said.
The secret files – the result of a year-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners – expose offshore entities used by a range of football players, team owners, league officials, sports agents and clubs to move money offshore.
Messi, a five-time world player of the year, is among the nearly 20 players whose names appear in the Mossack Fonseca documents.
Already indicted in Spain on charges that he and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, used offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid taxes totalling millions of dollars, the leaked documents show that Messi and his father owned another offshore company in Panama: Mega Star Enterprises.
Platini, banned for six years last month after receiving a “disloyal” $2.1 million payment from former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, is also mentioned in the leaks. Platini used Mossack Fonseca to help him administer an offshore company created in Panama in 2007, the year he was elected head of European football.
In the Panama Papers, Blatter’s former No.2 Valcke, sacked in January before being hit with a 12 year ban from football for ethics code violations, is listed as the owner of a British Virgin Islands company called Umbelina SA, created in July 2013. The company was used to purchase a yacht registered in the Cayman Islands.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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