June 18 – The Swiss investigation into FIFA corruption looks to be collapsing following a ruling by the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona which declared Federal Prosecutor Michael Lauber’s secret meetings with FIFA president Gianni Infantino give the appearance of bias.
In what is an even bigger blow to the integrity of Lauber and Infantino is that the court noted that the lack of documentation of their meetings violates federal law – specifically: Article 77 of the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO). Both are qualified legal professionals in Switzerland and would understand fully the basics of criminal investigation covered by this law.
The ruling puts intense pressure on Lauber who has been battling to keep his position. It also raises questions over Infantino’s involvement in the FIFA investigation and how far he was looking to influence the direction of that investigation and Swiss justice. It is unclear whether he could face criminal prosecution in this regard.
Infantino injected himself into the investigation in 2016 via an introduction to Lauber by a childhood friend.
Last year Football Leaks revealed that two secret meetings had taken place Infantino and Lauber, whose office has been investigating numerous cases of alleged FIFA-related corruption since 2015.
Lauber has acknowledged two meetings in March and April 2016 with Infantino, saying they were intended to help advance the investigation.
But then Swiss media reported a third, previously undeclared meeting in June 2017 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.
Both Infantino and Lauber claimed they couldn’t remember the meeting, nor what was discussed at the meeting. What was discussed at that meeting and what Infantino’s agenda can only be speculated upon.
Contacts between Lauber and Infantino were reportedly facilitated by Valais prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold, a long-time friend and associate of Infantino. Rinaldo was subsequently FIFA’s guest at Russia 2018 world Cup and is understood to have received hospitality benefits amount to about CHF20,000 from the FIFA president, raising ethics questions about his use of FIFA money.
The Swiss legal 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.
As a consequence of the ruling by the Federal Court in Bellinzona, Swiss law now means that official acts in which Lauber has been involved must be cancelled and repealed if an applicant requests this at a court.
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