FIFA's Gianni Infantino may face Ethics Committee investigation - sources

FIFA president Gianni Infantino could find himself under investigation by the organisation's Ethics Committee for the second time during his eight-month tenure over his role in a loan to the Slovenian Football Association (NZS) made during his previous position as UEFA general secretary, sources have told ESPN FC.

A source close to FIFA's independent Ethics Committee has told ESPN FC that it could meet by the end of next week to decide if formal proceedings should begin against Infantino, who was elected head of world football's governing body in February, and that it was carrying out preliminary inquiries to establish if there is a case to answer.

"The head of the Ethics Committee is looking at all the media reports about this matter and other information that has been provided, including financial reports of both UEFA and the NZS," the source said. "A decision is expected by next Friday on a formal investigation."

A second source verified the information to ESPN FC.

The allegations, first made in the Norwegian football magazine Josimar and Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, relate to a €4 million loan granted by UEFA to the NZS in the summer of 2015. It claimed that €3.6m of this was used to buy shares in Slovenian betting company Sportna Loterija, a breach of FIFA's ethics code.

The report also alleged that UEFA's Finance Committee was sidestepped and the loan was approved by Infantino, who was then general secretary; former president Michel Platini; vice president Marios Lefkaritis; finance director Josef Koller; and the then deputy general secretary Theodore Theodoridis, who is now the general secretary. Aleksander Ceferin, who was elected UEFA president last month, was head of the NZS at the time.

A spokesman for FIFA's Ethics Committee told ESPN FC: "There are no formal proceedings going on against president Infantino and we never confirm or deny if there are preliminary investigations in any case.

"We pay attention to everything that is brought before us, including media reports, and it is up to the head of the committee to decide if the matter should be pursued further."

UEFA denies the allegations concerning the loan, claiming that all "standard procedures" were followed.

In a statement it said: "The Finance Committee was not 'sidestepped,' as this article mistakenly suggests. The loan was granted in accordance with an established framework procedure approved and agreed by the UEFA Finance Committee.

"The purpose for which the loan funds was used was also fully legitimate."

A spokesman for NZS told ESPN FC that FIFA's Ethics Committee investigators had not contacted them but they were willing to cooperate with any kind of investigation.

"All the information on how we spent the loan is documented in our financial reports," he added. "Everything is in the public domain and we have nothing to hide."

Infantino was elected on a mandate to combat corruption within FIFA and restore its tattered image, initiating a series of reforms to make the organisation more transparent and accountable but continues to find himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Last month, Infantino was cleared by FIFA's Ethics Committee after being investigated for alleged misconduct over the use of private flights. The week-long investigation also examined his hiring of senior advisors and his initial refusal to sign a working contract.