By Andrew Warshaw
May 21 – The fate of Michael Lauber, (pictured) Switzerland’s leading prosecutor, hangs perilously in the balance after lawmakers voted to launch impeachment proceedings against him amidst much-publicised concerns over his relationship with FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
The Swiss parliament’s judicial commission voted 13-4 Wednesday that they suspect the country’s attorney general of being guilty of a “serious violation” of his duties following the collapse last month of the botched 2006 World Cup tax fraud investigation that failed to reach verdicts against three of Germany’s most prominent former football supremos, as well as continued suspicion over undocumented dealings Lauber had with Infantino.
In March Lauber, who has denied any wrongdoing, was sanctioned for disloyalty, lying and breaching his office’s code of conduct. He also had his pay cut for a year after a watchdog group found he repeatedly told falsehoods and broke a prosecutors’ code of conduct.
Lauber appealed against that decision, accusing the watchdog of having made several procedural errors, exceeding its powers and “being biased”.
But lawmakers have taken a different view and the judicial commission which interviewed Lauber on Wednesday will now consider evidence against him and decide whether to put an impeachment motion to Parliament.
“There is a well-founded suspicion that Mr. Lauber has seriously violated his duties of office either intentionally or by gross negligence ,” said committee member Matthias Aebischer. “It is not a pre-conviction. It only means that we start the investigation.”
Lauber, who was first elected attorney general in 2011 and won another four-year mandate last September, was reportedly asked about contacts between his office and FIFA, as well as e-mail correspondence concerning Infantino.
The FIFA boss has not been accused of any wrongdoing and FIFA has been keen to stress that, far from being a party to corruption, he is trying to weed it out. “Meeting with prosecutors is a standard procedure not a crime. Making an complaint against someone for meeting a prosecutor is a farce,” FIFA said recently in a strongly worded statement.
But the fact Lauber was apparently questioned about possible collusion with Infantino hardly enhances the reputation of either individual.
After the hearing, Andrea Caroni, the committee chairman, told reporters: “The judicial committee opens an impeachment hearing when there is reasonable suspicion the accused willfully or with gross negligence seriously violated his official duties, or otherwise has lost the ability to fulfill them.”
If Lauber is found to have committed a breach, the judicial committee will submit a motion to Swiss parliament to vote on his removal – the first time that will have happened since the country’s foundation in 1848.
“ It is appalling to have had to reach this point,” said Roger Nordmann, president of the socialist group of the Switzerland’s Federal Assembly. “The greatest service that Mr. Lauber could render to the institution is to leave. Now.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com