Fifa pres­i­dent In­fantino faces crim­i­nal in­quiry in Switzer­land

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Football - By Tom Mor­gan

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

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