by Tony Attwood
You may recall that I have been making a bit of a fuss about the way the English media will not, seemingly as a matter of policy, cover events relating to Fifa which have been bubbling away throughout this year.
The Americans are threatening to ensure that companies registered in the USA cannot attend or trade with the 2022 World Cup, and Infantino, the head of Fifa, has been under investigation for attempting to collude with the Swiss Attorney General who was supposedly already investigating Infantino for corruption. Meanwhile in the biggest money laundering scheme I have ever read about, a huge amount of money has moved from Fifa via an Israeli bank, and the bank has been fined $1bn.
But these of course are trivial matters involving funny foreigners who don’t know about real life, so the English newspapers won’t touch the stories. And yet they roll on, and now the current Fifa legal battle has even brought down the most senior legal man in Switzerland, and it is having ramifications throughout football.
Indeed, this really has only just begun and Infantino is most certainly in real trouble.
The story actually began in December 2014 when the Swiss changed the law to bring people attending conventions of international sporting bodies under Swiss jurisdiction. We first noted that in the article Switzerland take a greater interest in Fifa – at last. And exactly as with recent developments the British press had no interest in it. Our story was there, they could have read it, but no… they ignored it all.
Mind you, while the International Olympics Committee recognised the danger of holding meetings in Switzerland and decided to hold its next voting meeting after the introduction of the new Swiss law, in Peru, Fifa with all its arrogance stayed in Switzerland. And the UK media with all their arrogance of “it only matters if it is British” ignored the matter. Only Untold Arsenal thought it worth reporting.
So on 27 May 2015 the Americans moved in and arrested a lot of Fifa execs, and the British media like the Fifa execs were totally taken by surprise. If only they had bothered to read Untold.
Now let’s pick up the latest story (just in case any English newspaper people are thinking, “Bugger, we really missed it all last time by not reading Untold Arsenal, maybe we should start reading it…”)
In May 2018 Rui Pinto, the man behind the Football Leaks revelations, (which revealed all the details of the Manchester City payment manipulations which led to the Uefa case against Manchester City, and which in turn failed because Uefa left it too late to mount its case), revealed that Michael Lauber – the most senior legal official in Switzerland – had met FIFA President Gianni Infantino in March and April 2016.
And the shock and horror of this was that these encounters were secret – as in not recorded by either party.
To see the importance of this – this is the most senior lawman in Switzerland meeting the head of the organisation that had been raided in May 2015, with the raid resulting in numerous arrests by the Americans. And the meeting is in secret, as in “with no one else present” – not even the usual aids and advisers. And this at a time when there was a separate case against Infantino pending in the Swiss courts.
On 21 November 2018 Michael Lauber claimed that these discussions between him and Infantino were necessary to clarify points concerning the complex procedures specific to the world of football.
Undoubtedly a lot of laughter from those in Switzerland who had been involved in arranging the mass arrests in 2015. The prosecutor and the defendant cannot, CANNOT CANNOT have private secret meetings. That is called corruption.
On 18 April 2019 the supervisory authority of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Switzerland (AS-MPC) examined whether a third meeting between the two on June 2017 which they had just found out about. It looked bad for the Attorney General but he held on.
On 11 May 2019 the AS-MPC announced it was starting a disciplinary investigation against its own Attorney General.
On 18 June the Federal Criminal Court reached the view that the meetings of Lauber and Infantino were “at odds” with the rules of procedure. (That is, it was corruption pure and simple).
On 13 September 2019 the legal authorities criticised Michael Lauber for preventing two people from being in his meetings with Infantino, and his office and for not providing requested documents (an old Fifa trick). That’s another big moment – the top legal man STOPPED others from attending and ensured his office did not provide legal documents to others when asked for.
4 March 2020: The investigation into the affair concludes Mr. Lauber has breached his own rules, and lied about his meetings with Gianni Infantino.
21 April 2020: Michael Lauber files an appeal.
2 May 2020: There are calls for the resignation of the Attorney General
20 May 2020 The judicial committee of the Parliament launches a dismissal procedure, the first time ever this has happened in Switzerland.
24 July 2020 : Michael Lauber resigns.
The Swiss are quite clear that the concealment of a third meeting between Lauber and Infantino constitutes in particular a serious violation of the duty of office. Also in a nice twice the court noted that Lauber had “forgotten” that the meetings took place suggesting that this lack of memory itself made Lauber unfit to hold his office.
As a result of all this the Swiss are now considering changes to its legal system, and there is a feeling that the credibility of the Swiss legal system has been undermined by the obvious collusion between Infantino and the top Swiss lawyer.
Interestingly the statement put out as the resignation was accepted said, “We need a strong prosecutor in the fight against money laundering, organised crime and terrorism.” He seemed to be thinking of Fifa.
Of course the English media still ignore this, but Infantino is now in real trouble and the kow-towing that the FA does to Infantino and Fifa in its present guise could well be a total waste of money, and ultimately a supreme embarrassment. The rest of Europe knows what is going on, but the poor dear FA, who restrict themselves to the English papers, haven’t got a clue.
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