Criminal proceedings brought against Fifa head Infantino in Switzerland
Gianni Infantino, the president of Fifa, is the subject of legal proceedings in his home country of Switzerland over controversial meetings held with the outgoing Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber, it was revealed today.
Stefan Keller, the special prosecutor appointed last month to review criminal complaints against the pair and others, has also sought approval to open proceedings against Lauber.
The watchdog overseeing the Office of the Attorney General confirmed today it had found indications of criminal conduct relating to the meetings between Infantino (pictured) and Lauber.
The statement read: “This concerns abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, assisting offenders and incitement to these acts.”
Lauber officially tendered his resignation on Tuesday, with his last day in office to be 31 August, after a court found he had misled investigators in covering up a meeting with Infantino, amid a probe into alleged corruption at Fifa, which is headquartered in the Swiss city of Zurich.
Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
The OAG said today it had taken note of the latest development and that Lauber would make statements to parliamentary committees if required.
The watchdog said proceedings have been launched against both Infantino and Rinaldo Arnold, a prosecutor from the canton of Valais, who was involved in the meetings, and was seeking parliamentary approval to have Lauber’s immunity from prosecution waived.
In a statement today, Fifa acknowledged the decision of the special prosecutor and said that it and Infantino remained "at the disposal of the Swiss authorities and will, as we have always done, cooperate fully with this investigation."
The Federal Administrative Court found Lauber had made “implausible” statements about the undisclosed meeting with Infantino in June 2017.
In particular, it concluded the official “intentionally made a false statement” to the watchdog investigating his conduct and knowingly concealed the meeting.
There was particular scrutiny of meetings that Lauber held with Infantino in 2016 and 2017 regarding the status of the corruption inquiry which he failed to document, prompting allegations of collusion.
The internal disciplinary case against Lauber included the meeting he had with Infantino in June 2017 at a hotel in Bern at which the attorney general took no notes.
Lauber was heading up an investigation into corruption in international soccer dating back to 2014, and which treats Fifa as a victim rather than a suspect.
However, he was recused from the probe for failing to document the meetings with Infantino.
Fifa has never denied the meetings, saying they were intended to show that the federation was "ready to cooperate with the Swiss justice system."
Moreover, Infantino had said last month: "To meet with the attorney general of Switzerland is perfectly legitimate and it’s perfectly legal. It’s no violation of anything. On the contrary, it is also part of the fiduciary duties of the president of Fifa."
He added: "There was a mountain of questions. So it’s legitimate to offer to contribute to the Swiss attorney general about the clarification of these events, hoping that those who have done criminal acts and damaged Fifa will be held to account for that."
Infantino was elected as head of Fifa in February 2016, pledging a new era of ethical behaviour and transparency, after the governing body's reputation had been tarnished by various corruption scandals in the final years under the leadership of the long-serving, and now-banned, Sepp Blatter.
Infantino defended his record earlier today, saying: "People remember well where Fifa was as an institution back in 2015, and how substantial judicial intervention was actually required to help restore the credibility of the organisation. As president of Fifa, it has been my aim from day one, and it remains my aim, to assist the authorities with investigating past wrongdoings at Fifa.
"Fifa officials have met with prosecutors in other jurisdictions across the world for exactly these purposes. People have been convicted and sentenced, thanks to Fifa’s cooperation, and especially in the United States of America, where our cooperation has resulted in over 40 criminal convictions. Therefore, I remain fully supportive of the judicial process, and Fifa remains willing to fully cooperate with the Swiss authorities for these purposes."
Infantino was re-elected for a new four-year term as Fifa president last June, and in January of this year became a member of the International Olympic Committee.