April 26 – Confidential meetings between FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber – reportedly set up by a childhood friend of Infantino – continue to be the subject of investigation in Switzerland amid intense speculation about exactly what was discussed.
Last year Football Leaks revealed two secret meetings in 2016 between Infantino and Lauber, whose office has been investigating numerous cases of alleged FIFA-related corruption since 2015.
Lauber and his office have publicly defended the contacts with Infantino, arguing they were necessary amid the sprawling probe into FIFA’s activities.
In November last year Lauber told reporters that two meetings with Infantino in March and April 2016 had been needed to clarify issues linked to the probe being carried out by his office. He said he did nothing wrong and that such meetings were “normal and regular, especially in complex cases”.
But now Swiss media have disclosed that there was a third meeting in June 2017 previously unannounced between the two.
“When we interviewed Mr. Lauber in November, we asked him if there had been any further meetings. He replied ‘no’,” said Hanspeter Uster, president of the supervisory authority that oversees the work of the Office of the Attorney General and who presented its annual report on Thursday.
“A preliminary investigation has been opened and the conclusions are due in two weeks.”
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 apparently collaborated with 15 countries.
Contacts between Lauber and Infantino were reportedly facilitated by Valais prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold, a long-time colleague of Infantino. Questions are being asked by the Swiss judiciary as to whether Infantino was using his new presidential position to influence the FIFA investigations being carried out by the Swiss authorities. The issue goes right to the heart of the independence of the Swiss judiciary as well as to the integrity of FIFA’s presidency.
So far Swiss observers have not been convinced by the response from the Swiss judiciary. FIFA has made no comment.
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