New probe into Swiss prosecutor's contacts with FIFA boss

A Swiss oversight body has opened inquiry into the meetings between Switzerland's attorney general Michael Lauber and FIFA President Gianni Infantino which were set up by Rinaldo Arnold, a prosecutor and a childhood friend of the Infantino.

Published : Apr 25, 2019 20:09 IST

A Swiss oversight body said Thursday that it has opened an preliminary inquiry into a reportedly undisclosed meeting between the country's top prosecutor and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Switzerland's attorney general Michael Lauber has faced criticism over informal contacts with Infantino while his office was investigating decades of graft within world football.

Two Lauber-Infantino meetings were brought to light last year by 'Football Leaks', a cross-border investigation by several European news organisations.

Those 2016 contacts held shortly after Infantino took charge of FIFA from the disgraced Sepp Blatter were 'not problematic,' the body that oversees Switzerland's attorney general, known as the AS-MPC, said Thursday.

READ | FIFA bans eight for life over match-fixing

In its 2018 annual report, the AS-MPC noted that Infantino had taken charge of FIFA after it had become the target of an 'extremely complex' investigation.

There was a need for Lauber and Infantino to discuss “procedural issues (and) FIFA's willingness to cooperate in the delivery of internal documents,” the report said.

But AS-MPC president Hanspeter Uster said that while probing the two 2016 meetings, officials had asked Lauber if he had met with Infatino on other occasions.

Lauber “said 'no,'” Uster told reporters in Bern.

Last week, Swiss media reported details of a third meeting between the attorney general and Infantino, also a Swiss national.

"A preliminary inquiry has been opened," Uster said, adding it should be concluded in two weeks.

Switzerland's attorney general Michael Lauber speaks at the press conference on Thursday at Bern to address the allegations against him .

Lauber and his office have publicly defended the contacts with Infantino, arguing it was a necessary amid a sprawling probe into world fooball's governing body.

Switzerland has pursued a number of cases since a raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich in May 2015 led to the arrests of a several FIFA executives and exposed the corrupt underbelly of world football.

In addition to Blatter, the high-profile targets of Swiss investigators include FIFA's former secretary general Jerome Valcke and Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the powerful Qatari national and media executive who is the president of French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

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The meetings between Lauber and Infantino were set up by Rinaldo Arnold, a prosecutor in the southern Swiss canton of Valais and a childhood friend of the FIFA president.

Football Leaks also reported that Arnold received gifts, including match tickets, from Infantino.

But a Swiss magistrate who investigated those gifts has cleared Arnold of wrongdoing after findings that the gifts were not aimed at influencing his work.

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