Swiss attorney general defends his FIFA investigation
BERN, Switzerland (AP) — Switzerland’s attorney general defended his team’s handling of its four-year FIFA investigation on Wednesday, a week after the lead prosecutor was removed from duty.
Federal prosecutors have come “under attack every day by the lawyers” in a case comprising 25 different investigations, Michael Lauber said at a news conference.
“We have to follow the Swiss (penal) code,” said Lauber, who confirmed he will seek another four-year term as attorney general in June.
He said “some” of the 25 FIFA-related cases could be resolved next year, by being closed or sent to court.
Criminal proceedings are open against former FIFA officials Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke, German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer and Paris Saint-Germain chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi. They deny wrongdoing and have not been charged.
Lauber called the rare news conference to address reports in the “Football Leaks” documents of his two meetings in 2016 with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who had recently been elected.
A meeting brokered by a Swiss regional prosecutor, and childhood friend of Infantino, was reported this month by German and Swiss media using a trove of confidential documents and emails from the soccer industry.
Lauber said informal meetings with Infantino in Bern and Zurich were normal in such a wide and complex case.
In a separate issue, Lauber suspended and then last week released the head of his white-collar crime investigation unit who led the FIFA case. Olivier Thormann was cleared of misconduct over supposed personal links to the case.
“The more it is written about, the more lawyers use this to attack the investigation,” Lauber acknowledged, calling the tactic “litigation PR.”
He also cautioned that some proceedings could be tough to resolve next year.
“The more you go to the end with cases, the more the parties involved in the case try to highlight certain elements in order to defend themselves,” he said.
Lauber declined to take questions on the content of FIFA investigations in his highest profile news conference about the case since September 2015. At that time, he shared a platform in Zurich with Loretta Lynch, the United States’ then-attorney general.
The U.S. Department of Justice has convicted or indicted more than 40 soccer and marketing executives in a sprawling investigation of bribery and corruption linked to commercial deals in the sport.