prosecutor Michael Lauber challenged by Swiss justice

prosecutor Michael Lauber challenged by Swiss justice
Michael Lauber, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor, in July 2015.
Michael Lauber, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor, in July 2015. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Responsible for corruption scandals related to the International Federation of Football (FIFA) since March 2015, the Swiss prosecutor Michael Lauber, 53, was challenged, Monday, June 17, by the court of complaints of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona, learned The world.

Two requests for disqualification were issued in November 2018 by the French Jérôme Valcke, former FIFA Secretary General (2007-2015), who is the subject of criminal proceedings initiated in 2016 and 2017 by the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Swiss Confederation ( MPC). A second accused had made the same request. According to our information, this is Markus Kattner, the former CFO of FIFA. " Most important to him: the MPC has stopped all proceedings against him since April 10 Says his counsel and spokesman, Edwin van der Geest.

Mr Lauber is thus forced to recuse himself in the proceedings against the former number two of the world organization and is divested of the "FIFAgate" file. Former head of the economic crime division of the Swiss prosecutor's office, suspended by the MPC before leaving his post in November 2018, Olivier Thormann was also challenged, as well as the prosecutor Markus Nyffenegger, by prevention. "Neither Mr. Valcke nor I wish to comment, ensures World Me Patrick Hunziker, Mr. Valcke's lawyer. It remains to be seen how the MPC will deal with more than three and a half years of unfair proceedings? "

Secret meetings between Mr. Lauber and Gianni Infantino

The challenge applications filed on 6 and 26 November 2018 by Mr Valcke were motivated by the revelations of the "Football Leaks". The latter was the result of two informal meetings between Mr Lauber and Gianni Infantino, FIFA President since 2016. At the request of FIFA, a civil party in the ongoing proceedings, the first meeting was held at the Bernese Hotel. Schweizerhof, on 22 March 2016, five days after the opening of criminal proceedings against Jérôme Valcke.

Child friend of M. Infantino and first attorney of Upper Valais, Rinaldo Arnold organized this first meeting. Suspected "Acceptance of benefits" and " eventually (of) passive corruption ", Mr. Arnold was "cleared" on April 10 by the Extraordinary Prosecutor Damian K. Graf, appointed by the Public Prosecutor of the Canton of Valais.

On April 22, 2016, a second meeting of MM. Infantino and Lauber took place at Au Premier restaurant in Zurich. In addition to the head of the economic crime division of the Swiss public prosecutor's office, Olivier Thormann, Marco Villiger, then FIFA's legal director, also attended this meeting.

Read also Swiss federal prosecutor justifies meetings with FIFA boss

A candidate for a new term of office for the period 2020-2023, Mr. Lauber is currently under disciplinary investigation by the MPC supervisory authority (AS-MPC) for secretly meeting in June 2017, Gianni Infantino, and did not mention it during his first interrogation. The content of the exchanges, which took place outside any procedural framework, was never notified.

In formulating his requests for recusal, Mr Valcke pointed out the secret meetings between MM. Lauber and Infantino. He also mentioned the close links (SMS exchanges in support) between Mr Thormann and Marco Villiger, former FIFA legal director. The latter, exfiltrated from the Federation in August 2018, is suspected by several sources of having transmitted to the MPC information relating to the payment of two million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros) paid in 2011 by the then FIFA President (1998-2015) Sepp Blatter, who is the subject of criminal proceedings in this case, to Michel Platini, dismissed by the MPC in May 2018.

" I'm starting to trust the Swiss justice system Replied ironically to World Mr. Blatter, 83 years after Mr. Lauber's challenge. The ex-boss of world football had, he, made a challenge to the putative replacement of Mr. Thormann " to avoid suspicions of conflict of interest " for the said prosecutor, Thomas Hildbrand, would be related to his family and come from his native town, Visp (Valais canton).

Mr. Lauber "got involved personally"

The judges consider that Mr. Lauber played a more important role than that of a mere director of the institution and that he "Personally involved at the operational level in the procedures", going so far as to ask a prosecutor to classify one of the vouchers. His impartiality has been questioned by the Federal Criminal Court.

Mr Lauber was on the front line since 27 May 2015 and the US-led anti-corruption raid and the arrest of leaders of the International Football Federation (FIFA) at the Baur Hotel in Lake Zurich.

In consultation with Loretta Lynch, then US Minister of Justice, Mr. Lauber had just searched the headquarters of the world body and seize a colossal mass of data. Since then, he has launched about twenty investigations in connection with "FIFAgate".

Following a complaint filed by FIFA in November 2014, the prosecutor also discussed the controversial allocation of the 2010 World Cups (South Africa), 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar). A survey was also opened on the designation of Germany as the host country for the 2006 World Cup. To date, the MPC has noted "180 suspicious financial activity reports".

The decision of the Federal Criminal Court represents a snub for Mr. Lauber, whose re-election was postponed until September by the Judiciary Committee of Parliament.

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