Fifa president Infantino faces criminal inquiry in Switzerland
Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, is facing a criminal inquiry over allegations he held clandestine meetings with the Swiss lawyer in charge of investigating corruption at the highest level of football.
A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into his dealings with the Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, at a hotel in 2017, authorities in Switzerland confirmed.
Fifa was embroiled in the worst corruption scandal in its history in 2015, which led to its then president, Sepp Blatter, being banned from the sport, while several dozen officials were indicted in the United States on corruptionrelated charges.
Lauber was at the head of an ensuing investigation, but Fifa has since said it was legitimate and legal for Infantino, 50, to meet with the former Swiss attorney general and federal prosecutor. However, last Friday the supervisory body that oversees Lauber’s office ruled he “seriously violated his official and legal duties”, prompting the lawyer to stand down from his post.
The Swiss government has confirmed that special prosecutor Stefan Keller opened a criminal case against Infantino as well as Valais prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold, and has sought authorisation to open a legal case against Lauber, too.
Keller, appointed last month, has already found that possible infractions included abuse of public office by Lauber, breach of official secrecy, “assisting offenders” and “incitement to these acts”. Other criminal acts and proceedings could also be considered.
An internal disciplinary case against Lauber identified a meeting he had with Infantino in June 2017 at a hotel in Berne, at which the prosecutor took no notes. They later both said they could not recall their discussion at what was their third meeting in a 15-month period.
“On the basis of general life experience, such a case of collective amnesia is an aberration,” a federal court ruling said last week. Fifa has declined to comment on the new investigation.
Lauber had previously clung to his job despite damning reports from a government watchdog and calls to quit from campaigners over slow progress in other corruption cases, ranging from Brazil’s Petrobras to Malaysian state fund 1MDB.
The 54-year-old, who has been Switzerland’s most senior state lawyer since 2012, denied lying over Infantino meetings, but offered to resign to protect the reputation of his office.
Legal battle: Gianni Infantino is under investigation over his dealings with the former Swiss attorney general