By Paul Nicholson
July 24 – Switzerland’s embattled Attorney General Michael Lauber has offered to resign after a Swiss court concluded he had lied to investigators regarding his office’s corruption probe into FIFA.
Lauber said that while he was standing down he still rejected the accusation that he had lied. “I respect the judgment of the Federal Administrative Court,” he said in a statement.
“I still reject the lie in all form. However, if you don’t believe me as a federal prosecutor, it will harm the prosecutor’s office. I therefore offer the responsible judicial commission the resignation in the interest of the institutions.”
The lies in question refer to circumstances around the unremembered and undocumented meetings he held with FIFA president Gianni Infantino and in particular their final meeting. It is still unknown what was actually discussed at those meetings though there has been much speculation that Infantino was looking into whether there was a criminal investigation into himself and potentially interfere with other investigations into FIFA and its partners.
Lauber’s conduct had already been deemed untrustworthy and sanctioned by his own legal regulatory body in Switzerland, which had resulted in a cut in salary. He was also facing impeachment proceedings, the first ever for an AG in Switzerland.
Lauber’s resignation is not good news for Infantino as the court decision in the last instance confirms that the final secret meeting between Lauber and Infantino is “highly problematic”, according to one legal source in Switzerland.
A special prosecutor has already been appointed by the Swiss judiciary to look into whether Infantino should face a full criminal investigation following the filing of three complaints against him regarding the meetings with Lauber.
The court ruling on Lauber and his subsequent resignation can now be expected to speed up the decision of the special prosecutor on whether or not to recommend that criminal investigation given that Lauber has been found guilty of lieing regarding the FIFA investigations.
It would be a surprise, according to local law experts, if a criminal investigation was not instigated as not only is the integrity of Infantino in question but also that of the Swiss justice system that has been investigating FIFA.
The question then becomes whether Infantino can remain in office or whether he is suspended while the criminal investigation is conducted. In the past FIFA Ethics have suspended key officials – including former UEFA president Michel Platini, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, and former general secretary Jerome Valcke – when the Swiss justice department has opened criminal investigations.
For his part Infantino has consistently maintained his innocence, saying that it is right that he should talk to prosecutors about investigations into the organisation he leads.
But the real question here is what did he talk about and what did it mean for those investigations.
A member of Switzerland’s parliamentary judicial committee welcomed Lauber’s decision.
“It was the best thing he could do at the moment, there were too many allegations against him,” Ursula Schneider Schuettel told Reuters. “In his position the attorney general has to be above suspicion and it would have been damaging if he remained.”
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