Panama Papers: Fifa boss Infantino dragged into scandal

New president signed deal with offshore company owned by FBI-indicted Hugo Jinkis while at Uefa

New Fifa president Gianni Infantino
(Image credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Fifa has been dragged into the Panama Papers scandal after it emerged that new president Gianni Infantino concluded an offshore deal with South American figures now facing extradition to the US over corruption charges.

The claims relate to deals signed off by Infantino, who has pledged to clean up world football, when he was a director of football's European governing body, Uefa.

They emerged in the massive data leak from law firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama that has sent shockwaves around the world.

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The deal:

In 2006, Infantino, then working for Uefa, signed off on the sale of Champions League rights in Ecuador to a company called Cross Trading.

It paid $111,000 (£80,000) for the rights, but then sold them to Ecuadorian broadcaster Teleamazonas for $311,170 (£222,000).

The Jinkis connection:

Cross Trading, which was registered in the tiny South Pacific tax haven of Niue, was a subsidiary of another company, Full Play, owned by Argentine businessman Hugo Jinkis. He was subsequently caught up in the Fifa scandal which broke in 2015.

"Jinkis was alleged by US prosecutors to have handed over millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to football executives to obtain and retain media and marketing rights," reports The Guardian. "Jinkis, along with his son Mariano, is under house arrest in Argentina."

Uefa's claim:

When Fifa was hit by corruption claims last year, Uefa "denied doing business with any of the 14 people who have been indicted by the FBI in its investigation into corruption in world football", says the BBC.

The leak of the Panama Papers has proved otherwise and Uefa has since told the broadcaster that "the TV rights were sold to the highest bidder in an open and competitive tender process".

According to the Guardian, the organisation has also admitted to signing a hospitality sales agreement with a Brazilian company named extensively in the US indictment.

Infantino and Uefa denials:

Fifa's new head responded angrily to suggestions of wrongdoing in relation to the deal exposed by the Panama Papers.

"I am dismayed and will not accept that my integrity is being doubted by certain areas of the media," Infantino said. "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."

Europe's governing body has also backed its man. It insisted that the deal with Cross Trading was above board and that at the time, Jinkis was not under suspicion.

"There is no suggestion whatsoever of any Uefa official or marketing partner taking any form of bribe or kickback, whether in relation to this tiny deal, or any other commercial transaction," it said.

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