By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA's ethics committee has said there are no formal proceedings against Gianni Infantino, the recently-elected president of soccer's global body, after a German newspaper reported that he was facing a provisional ban for unethical conduct.
However, the committee would not confirm or deny whether preliminary investigations, which would precede a formal investigation, had taken place.
German newspaper Die Welt had said on Thursday that Infantino, elected in February to lead FIFA out of the worst graft crisis in his history, was facing investigation over possible ethics breaches.
"We are not in a position to indicate if we have or have not preliminary investigatory proceedings against an individual," said the ethics committee's investigatory chamber in a statement to Reuters. "We would however like to point out that there are no formal proceedings going on against Mr. Infantino."
Die Welt said it had seen emails suggesting that Infantino had ordered senior FIFA officials to delete recordings of a controversial meeting of the FIFA Council, formerly the executive committee, before last month's Mexico City Congress.
Meanwhile, the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger published copies of emails it said were exchanged between FIFA officials and which it said confirmed they were obeying instructions to wipe out a recording.
FIFA said in an emailed statement on Thursday that one recording had been deleted because it was stored improperly, but the original audio file still existed and was properly archived.
"In accordance with standard practice, all official FIFA meetings – including Council meetings - are recorded and archived. This was the case for the meeting in Mexico City in question," FIFA said in a statement.
"The email exchange that makes mention of the deletion of audio files refers to a copy of the original audio file of the meeting that was improperly stored on a local drive."
"This mention does not refer to the officially archived audio file. That file exists and is properly saved at FIFA."
FIFA was swept into controversy when the Congress in Mexico passed a resolution giving the FIFA Council the power to appoint or dismiss members of its independent watchdog committee.
This effectively gave the Council, headed by Infantino, the right to fire ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and ethics investigator Cornel Borbely and the head of the audit and compliance committee, Domenico Scala.
Scala, who had overseen the FIFA reforms, resigned in protest the following day, saying the resolution undermined recent reforms. Eckert and Borbely have remained in their posts and said the change would have no impact on their work.
Last week, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, another German newspaper, alleged there had been a plot at the meeting to get rid of Scala after he antagonized FIFA Council members, although FIFA in reply described this as "ludicrous."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)