FIFA President Infantino Grilled over £50million Private Jet Trip to see the Pope
FIFA President Gianni Infantino escaped by the skin of his teeth after the Ethics Committee turned the searchlight on him over a trip to see the Pope.
Elected to the most powerful office in world football with a mandate to clean the rot in the system in the wake of the fall of Sepp Blatter, Infantino soon betrayed a fondness for the lavish lifestyles FIFA bosses have been accustomed to.
Ironically, it was a trip to see the Pope that threatened his downfall, twice taken on a £50million private jet: first from last year’s Champions League final in Milan to Rome, and then home to Geneva.
The meeting with Pope Francis was shown on TV, with the message from his Holiness: “With soccer, go forward showing honesty and cleanliness,” the pontiff told Infantino.
To which the FIFA boss replied: “We want to do just that,” Daily Mail writes.
Some within FIFA were less than impressed, and it wasn’t long before a written complaint had been made with claims that the jet was owned by the enormously powerful Uzbek-born Russian billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, who owns 30 per cent of Arsenal.
Infantino did not initially inform FIFA’s compliance department about the flight, which breached the rules which state: “Any member of the FIFA family shall inform FIFA compliance department in the event that an invitation to join an aircraft — other than aircraft chartered by FIFA itself — will be accepted.”
While taking favours from any businessman might be against the rules, FIFA particularly frowned at the Usmanov business seeing as he is so integrated into Russian sport.
Infantino was however cleared of the charges as none of the accusations was adjudged to be a violation of FIFA rules. FIFA ethics prosecutor Robert Torres explained that the jet for the Pope trip was owned by Leon Semenenko, a friend of Infantino.
“The indirect ties of the relationship between Mr Semenenko and Mr Usmanov were not sufficiently close enough to be considered in the light of the ‘conflict of interest’ principle,”Torres concluded.
The FIFA boss was thus in the clear.
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