FIFA president Gianni Infantino reportedly signed off on a contract with two businessmen who have since been accused of bribery, according to files leaked in the Panama Papers observed by BBC and The Guardian.
In 2006, Infantino signed a contract with Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, who purchased television broadcast rights for UEFA Champions League and other regional soccer tournaments broadcasts and later sold them for three-times the price. The rights, acquired by the Argentinean company called Cross Trading, were sold to broadcaster Teleamazonas.
Infantino's name was uncovered on one of the contracts as part of the 11 million documents that were leaked from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama. The law firm aimed to help wealthy and powerful figures help set up offshore companies. The documents were obtained by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and passed along to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. There is no evidence within the documents that suggest that Infantino, then the UEFA president, accepted any bribes from Hugo and Mariano Jinkis or their company.
Infantino issued the following statement:
“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. "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. From the moment I was made aware of the latest media enquiries on the matter, I immediately contacted UEFA to seek clarity. I did this because I am no longer with UEFA, and it is they who exclusively possess all contractual information relating to this query. In the meantime, UEFA has announced that it has been conducting a review of its numerous commercial contracts and has answered extensively all media questions related to these specific contracts. As I previously stated, I never personally dealt with Cross Trading nor their owners as the tender process was conducted by Team Marketing on behalf of UEFA. I would like to state for the record that neither UEFA nor I have ever been contacted by any authorities in relation to these particular contracts. Moreover, as media themselves report, there is no indication whatsoever for any wrongdoings from neither UEFA nor myself in this matter.”
UEFA has denied any wrongdoing. Hugo and Mariano Jinkis are looking to avoid extradition from Argentina to the United States.
“The TV contract in question was signed by Gianni Infantino since he was one of several UEFA directors empowered to sign contracts at the time,” UEFA told The Guardian. “As you will have observed, the contract was also co-signed by another UEFA director. It’s standard practice.”
BBC reports that the deal could be examined by FIFA's ethics committee in the interests of transparency.
Infantino took over as FIFA president in February as he succeeded Sepp Blatter, who was suspended from the sport as corruption and bribery allegations hit the governing body.