The prosecutor who was investigating FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been removed for public statements that were ‘biased’ against the head of world football’s governing body, a Swiss court announced on Wednesday.
Stefan Keller opened an inquiry into Infantino in July 2020 over three informal meetings with the former head of the Swiss public prosecutor’s office (MPC). In March he started investigating Infantino’s use of a private jet paid for by FIFA.
Keller had not yet started formal proceedings in either case.
The Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona “admitted Gianni Infantino’s request for recusal against Stefan Keller” in a decision taken last Friday and published on its website on Wednesday.
The judgement centred on four press communications and a statement to a legal journal by Keller, which, the court said in its judgement, did not constitute “objective, neutral and correct information in the public interest”.
“It appeared obvious that there was not only the mere appearance of a possible bias, but that he was in fact biased towards the applicant,” said the decision.
In particular, Keller had noted in mid-December “indications” that the FIFA boss had been guilty of “unfair management” for using a private jet, funded by the body, to fly between Suriname and Switzerland in 2017.
FIFA was quick to welcome the ruling.
“Mr Keller had clearly violated the presumption of innocence and damaged the standing of the FIFA President, contrary to his personal rights protected under the law,” it said in a statement.
Keller rejected the accusation in the ruling that he “communicated misleading and factually incorrect information”.
Keller said in his own statement that he would discuss the further procedure with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (AB-BA) and with the Judicial Commission.
“It must be clarified what effects the decision from Bellinzona will have on the various proceedings as well as the other parties involved,” said his statement.
The Swiss Federal Criminal Court has not yet examined FIFA’s request for the “nullity of the procedural acts carried out so far”.
Infantino was being investigated for “incitement to abuse authority”, “violation of official secrecy” and “obstruction of criminal proceedings”.
Keller was appointed as “extraordinary prosecutor” in July last year to investigate suspicions of collusion between FIFA and the former head of the MPC, Michael Lauber.
The investigations focused on three secret meetings held in 2016 and 2017 between Lauber and Infantino.
Lauber resigned last summer while FIFA’s internal justice system cleared Infantino.
The executive Infantino just wanted to show Lauber how much FIFA had changed since the “corrupt” rule of his predecessor Sepp Blatter.