Swiss federal prosecutors have suspended the head of their white-collar crime unit following allegations about his conduct during investigations into suspected corruption at world soccer body FIFA.
The suspension of Olivier Thormann and the naming of a special prosecutor to look into the matter comes amid other high-profile investigations by the economic crime division, including into scandals surrounding Malaysian state fund 1MDB and Brazilian energy group Petrobras.
The move comes after Federal Prosecutor Michael Lauber received information, including allegations against Thormann, the Office of the Attorney General (OAGexternal link) said in a statement to Reuters on Friday, confirming a report by the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.
“The information on which this decision is based is related to the OAG’s criminal proceedings in the field of soccer and its governing body FIFA,” it said. “At the end of September 2018, Federal Prosecutor Michael Lauber received information with allegations against the head of the economic crime division of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office,” it added.
It said the information “may be of criminal relevance”, without elaborating. The suspension took place at the end of October.
The OAG said it took the precautionary steps as a standard measure to preserve the integrity of the OAG and its investigations and that Thormann, who left by mutual agreement, enjoyed the presumption of innocence. Thormann has not yet commented publicly on the issue.
The OAG has filed no charges in its investigations into FIFA to date. The OAG said the allegations about Thormann had nothing to do with two meetings between leaders of the OAG and FIFA that became public following publication of the so-called “Football Leaks” scandal this month. It was reported that FIFA chief Gianni Infantino had broken FIFA rules by interfering in the rewriting of its ethics code.
A 2015 FBI raid in Zurich saw seven officials arrested on corruption charges. More than 40 entities and individuals have been charged by US prosecutors in connection with the FIFA investigation.