Attorney general under pressure over alleged meeting with FIFA boss

Michael Lauber admitted two meetings with Gianni Infantino in March and April 2016 to clarify issues linked to 25 FIFA investigations being carried out by his office. Last week Swiss media reported a third, previously unannounced, meeting between the two men. © Keystone / Peter Schneider

An investigation has been opened in Switzerland to shed light on an alleged third meeting between Gianni Infantino, president of world football’s governing body FIFA, and Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber. 

Keystone SDA/AFP/sb

“A preliminary investigation has been opened and the conclusions are due in two weeks,” said Hanspeter Uster, president of the supervisory authority that oversees the work of the Office of the Attorney General, on Thursday. 

The probe could lead to disciplinary proceedings against Lauber and possible sanctions, ranging from a warning to a 10% reduction of his annual salary. 

Last year a Football Leaks investigation revealed two secret meetings in 2016 between Infantino and Lauber, whose office has been investigating numerous cases of alleged corruption against Zurich-based FIFA since 2015.  

In November Lauber told reporters his two meetings with Infantino in March and April 2016 had been needed to clarify issues linked to 25 FIFA investigations being carried out by his office. He said he did nothing wrong and that such meetings were “normal and regular, especially in complex cases”. 

Last week Swiss media reported a third, previously unannounced, meeting between the two men. 

“When we interviewed Mr. Lauber in November, we asked him if there had been any further meetings. He replied ‘no’,” said Uster, who presented the supervisory authority’s annual report on Thursday. 

‘Extremely complex’ 

In its annual report, the watchdog said “the mere fact that two meetings took place is not problematic. They took place in the context of an extremely complex procedure, on the one hand to review the situation after the change of the complainant’s [FIFA] president and, on the other hand, to settle procedural questions relating to FIFA’s willingness to cooperate in the delivery of internal documents”. 

But it requested that in future such meetings be documented in a written report. 

Contacts between Lauber and Infantino had been facilitated by Valais prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold. In mid-April the Valais Attorney General’s Office closed an investigation into the close ties between Arnold and Infantino. It said their probe had ruled out any suspicions of accepting bribes or passive corruption by Arnold.  

The supervisory authority confirmed in its report that 25 criminal investigations concerning FIFA were being pursued by the Office of the Attorney General. Swiss federal prosecutors have collaborated with 15 countries and analysed reams of documents. As a legal entity, FIFA has not been charged in any of the proceedings. As a complainant, it has been cooperating with the Office of the Attorney General to clarify aspects of investigations, the watchdog said.

Given the complexity of the investigation, the supervisory authority said there was a need for the Swiss authorities to continue to discuss further proceedings with all the parties.

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