Swiss attorney general investigated over handling FIFA case

Switzerland’s attorney general is the subject of a disciplinary case related to his handling of a four-year investigation of FIFA that involves 25 criminal proceedings for financial wrongdoing.

The federal office overseeing the work of chief prosecutor Michael Lauber said Friday it is examining possible violations of his duties in the FIFA investigation.

Swiss media have reported it involves an undeclared third meeting Lauber had with FIFA president Gianni Infantino in 2017.

Two meetings in 2016 were revealed last November in the Football Leaks series of reports that included confidential documents and emails from soccer officials, clubs and organizations.

Although Infantino is not publicly suspected of wrongdoing, Swiss criminal proceedings are open against former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, 2006 World Cup organizer Franz Beckenbauer, and Qatari soccer and television executive Nasser al-Khelaifi. They deny wrongdoing and have not been charged.

Lauber said in November his office was “under attack every day” by defense lawyers using the Football Leaks reports to question the integrity of the investigations.

The federal oversight office said it will appoint an outside counsel for the disciplinary inquiry.

The case comes as Lauber seeks a fresh four-year mandate in office from Swiss lawmakers in the coming weeks.

Lauber’s prosecutors have been investigating FIFA since the soccer body filed a criminal complaint in November 2014. He has also overseen long investigations linked to the Petrobras-Odebracht bribery affair in Brazil, and the 1MDB state investment fund scandal in Malaysia.

The FIFA case related to possible money laundering linked to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests. FIFA gave Lauber its own ethics committee’s investigation of the nine bid candidates, including winners Russia and Qatar.

FIFA’s then-ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia resigned soon after. The former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said he was unhappy with how his report was represented in a summary by FIFA’s then chief ethics judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert, and with Blatter’s leadership.

Eckert concluded all but one candidate likely broke bidding rules in their campaigns but that the voting results were not affected.

The Swiss criminal case grew to include all FIFA business, working with American prosecutors who unsealed indictments and guilty pleas in May 2015 after early-morning raids at a five-star hotel in Zurich.

In the U.S. case, more than 40 soccer and marketing officials have made guilty pleas or been indicted. Two were convicted in December 2017 after a trial lasting more than a month.

Infantino was elected to replace Blatter in February 2016, and is unopposed to get his own fresh four-year mandate next month.


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