Lausanne (AFP)

The Swiss prosecutor who had been investigating since last summer against the president of Fifa Gianni Infantino was challenged, for the time being paralyzing the investigations against the boss of world football, announced Wednesday the Swiss justice.

Stefan Keller had opened on July 30, 2020 a procedure targeting Mr. Infantino for three informal meetings with the former head of the Swiss public prosecutor's office, and since March had been examining a case of a private jet paid for by Fifa, without having formally instituted proceedings.

But the Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona "admitted Gianni Infantino's request for recusal against Stefan Keller", in a decision taken last Friday and published on its site on Wednesday, and ordered the magistrate to reimburse 5,000 Swiss francs in court costs to the Italian-Swiss leader.

The supreme criminal court, however, did not examine the requests for "nullity of the procedural acts conducted so far," she said, leaving the charges against the boss of Fifa intact.

Gianni Infantino therefore remains prosecuted for "incitement to abuse of authority", "violation of official secrecy" and "obstruction of criminal proceedings", pending the appointment of a new magistrate to resume. This folder.

In detail, the Federal Criminal Court accuses Stefan Keller of four communications to the press, as well as a "statement to a legal journal", which do not relate to "objective, neutral and correct information in the interest of the public "and cast doubt on its impartiality.

- Suspicion of collusion -

Stefan Keller had in particular noted in mid-December "clues" according to which the boss of Fifa was guilty of "unfair management" by returning by private jet from Suriname to Switzerland in 2017, even before being designated competent for investigate this component.

"By trying to examine questions that had nothing to do with his mandate, then by publicly expressing his personal suspicions", the magistrate "clearly violated the presumption of innocence" of Mr. Infantino, underlines for his part the Fifa in a press release.

President of the Supreme Court of the canton of Obwalden, in the center of the country, Stefan Keller was chosen as "extraordinary prosecutor" in mid-2020 to investigate the suspicions of collusion between Fifa and the former head of the federal prosecution, Michael Lauber.

His investigations focused on three secret meetings held in 2016 and 2017 between Mr. Lauber and Gianni Infantino, not mentioned in the multiple proceedings opened since 2015 on world football, in which Fifa is a civil party.

"The consequences" of this challenge "on the various procedures are not yet completely clear," said Stefan Keller in a statement, denying having "communicated misleading information" in this case.

The case forced Michael Lauber to resign last summer, but FIFA's internal justice cleared Mr. Infantino in mid-August.

The leader has since deemed "absurd" to be implicated for having met a magistrate and assures that he just wanted to show Mr. Lauber how much Fifa had changed since the "corrupt officials" of the era Sepp Blatter, his predecessor.

© 2021 AFP