Parliament denies under-fire Swiss Attorney General immunity

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber in May 2019. © Keystone / Anthony Anex

The Swiss parliament has decided to waive Attorney General Michael Lauber’s immunity, which paves the way for possible criminal proceedings against the top official over his handling of a FIFA investigation.

This content was published on August 24, 2020 - 14:21

Two parliamentary committees agreed on August 24 to lift the Attorney General’s immunity – a Swiss first. The decision answered a request by special federal prosecutor Stefan Keller, who has opened criminal proceedingsExternal link against Lauber, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Valais prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold. Infantino and Arnold do not enjoy immunity.

In his investigation, Keller concluded that there are indications of criminal conduct in relation to undisclosed meetings between the three in 2016 and 2017. This raises allegations of abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, assisting offenders and incitement to these acts.

The House of Representatives Immunity Committee ruled unanimously on Monday that the alleged facts were directly related to Lauber’s official function and activities and that he participated in the off-the-record meetings as Swiss attorney general.

“Attorney General Michael Lauber is suspected of abuse of office, violating confidentiality and favouritism by holding several non-recorded meetings with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Public Prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold and other people,” the immunity committee said in a statement.

“The committee points out that lifting the immunity is necessary in order to gain the greatest possible transparency about these meetings in a criminal investigation.”

According to Lauber, the supervisory body of the Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Court and the Federal Administrative Court have not found any suspicion of unlawful conduct concerning the undisclosed meetings.

Lauber offered to resign on July 24 after a federal court said he had committed breaches of his official duties and lied to investigators regarding the FIFA case. He has denied that he lied. On August 20, a Swiss parliamentary committee confirmed Lauber would leave his job on August 31.

The Attorney General oversaw, and was later recused from, a major investigation of alleged corruption linked to FIFA and football officials since 2014. It has yet to bring any convictions and few charges in Switzerland. Meanwhile, dozens of officials were convicted, made guilty pleas or were indicted by the US Department of Justice.

Two meetings between Lauber and Infantino in 2016 were revealed more than two years later in confidential documents leaked to a German magazine. A third meeting in 2017 stayed secret until Swiss media reports several months after the leaks.

Meanwhile, on August 30 FIFA’s independent ethics committee cleared its president of any alleged breach of its code.

“Based on the information available to date, no aspect of the conduct analysed constitutes a violation of FIFA regulations,” the committee said in a statement.External link

Infantino, who like Lauber also denies any wrongdoing, says the Swiss investigations have no factual basis and are absurd.

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