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Petrobras Swiss attorney general accused of informal meetings tied to Brazil graft probe

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber has described an independent disciplinary probe into his conduct as a personal full-frontal assault and an infringement on the independence of the Office of the Attorney General

(© Keystone / Peter Klaunzer)

The NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday that Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber had participated in informal, undocumented meetings related to proceedings over the Petrobras corruption case, a wide-reeling inquiry into graft at the Brazilian state-controlled energy company.  

Recently, Lauber has been fighting accusations of wrongdoing over his use of informal undocumented meetings in probes into alleged misconduct at FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body. 

Rolf Schuler, a Zurich-based lawyer representing a defendant in the Brazilian case, told the NZZexternal link that Lauber, along with other officials, had taken part in undocumented meetings in Switzerland and Brazil with a view to initiating money-laundering proceedings. 

However, the lawyer told NZZ that there is no written evidence of such meetings, despite his client being charged for related costs. The accusations could not be independently verified by swissinfo.ch.  

The Swiss attorney general is already under heavy pressure after the watchdog overseeing Swiss federal prosecutors recently ordered a disciplinary inquiry into a series of informal meetings between Lauber and the head of FIFA, Gianni Infantino. It criticized that such meetings had not been documented in written reports. 

The Office of the Attorney General has been looking into various cases of alleged corruption involving FIFA officials dating back to 2014 under the FIFA presidency of Sepp Blatter. 

Lauber has acknowledged two meetings with Infantino, saying they were intended to help advance the probe. However, he claims to have no recollection of a third meeting. He has also strongly denied accusations of lying or intentionally hiding information.  

Lauber has repeatedly stressed that complex proceedings such as those related to FIFA and Petrobras could not be conducted efficiently without informal talks.  

Counterattack  

The report came days after Lauber went on the counterattack at a press conference in Bern on Friday, during which he criticized the independent disciplinary probe into his conduct relating to the FIFA investigation.   

"It is not only a full-frontal assault on my person," he told reporters. "In my opinion, it is also an infringement on the independence of the Office of the Attorney General."  

Lauber said it was “absurd to turn the whole thing into an institutional crisis”. He added that since the end of last year, he had ensured that all talks relating to investigative proceedings should be documented. 

The two-time federal prosecutor said that he would be a candidate for another term in office. It is up to parliament to decide  whether he will get a third term.   

Some lawmakers have questioned his reappointment. Alfred Herr of the Swiss People’s Party told the Tages-Anzeigerexternal link that “Lauber is no longer tenable. He must be replaced."   

Heer said that such secret meetings risk jeopardising the numerous ongoing FIFA criminal proceedings.  

Carlo Sommaruga, a Social Democrat, said he had been shocked by Lauber’s press conference, and warned that the prosecutor was “willing to drag his authority into the abyss. There is only one way out to save the rule of law: his departure."  

Third meeting? Attorney general under pressure over alleged meeting with FIFA boss

A probe has been opened to shed light on an alleged third meeting between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber. 

This content was published on April 25, 2019 3:23 PM

Keystone-SDA/sb

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SWI swissinfo.ch on Instagram

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