By Tony Attwood
You won’t read this in an English paper largely because the only stuff they publish about Fifa comes from official press releases, as we saw last week, and not surprisingly Fifa are not issuing press releases talking about the collapse of the entire Fifa committee structure that Infantino has so carefully filled with him nominees.
But now we hear that criminal proceedings are about to be initiated against the Attorney General of the Swiss Confederation, Michael Lauber – the man who not only grew up in the same canton as Infantino, but also allegedly conspired with the Fifa boss to set up a system that benefited both of them, but not many other people.
I’ll set out the technical details below, since no one else in the UK wants to carry this story – but before the technicalities, why is such a move important?
The accusation is that Infantino as head of Fifa, and Lauber, the attorney general of Switzerlan, held secret meetings without witnesses, concerning enquiries being made in Switzerland about possible illegal and corrupt actions being undertaken by Infantino.
Lauber has argued that it was important to hold these meetings to reach an agreement as to how the enquiries should be handled with Fifa’s co-operation, (although neither can remember one of the meetings alleged by the prosecution since no notes were taken!) The state argues that while preliminary meetings can be held, they cannot be held in private without witnesses and there should always be minutes.
If this goes badly for Infantino, as seems inevitable, the entire edifice of Fifa committees seemingly packed solid with his supporters, could crumble, which could in turn reveal a multiplicity of corrupt practices.
Of particular interest will be the voting for the Qatar world cup in 2022, over which there have been numerous allegations of corruption. While the UK media have mostly refused to consider the matter, there is a huge level of concern in much of the rest of the football world, about world cup matches being played out in stadia built by slave labour – something that does not go well in terms of the Black Lives Matter protests and campaigns. The argument is simple; if black lives matter so do the lives of Pakistani labourers who have been tricked into moving to Qatar and then forced to work without pay.
The committees of the Federal Chambers of the Swiss judicial process has today removed the magistrate’s immunity from prosecution in a vote of 8 to 1. The Legal Affairs Commission of the Council of States of Switzerland has given the same ruling by 10 votes to 1.
In seems that the Infantino / Lauber coalition, which effectively worked to keep Infantino and co out of the view of the Swiss judiciary, has suffered its biggest and most important defeat. From now on they have no protection in law, and are being treated just like every other Swiss citizen.
This is the first time in the entire history of Switzerland that a senior federal magistrate has been the subject of such a measure. The decision allows the state to launch of criminal proceedings for suspicion of abuse of authority, violation of official secrecy and obstruction of criminal proceedings against Lauber. The context throughout is the same: the private meetings between FIFA President Gianni Infantino, and the first prosecutor of Haut-Valais, Rinaldo Arnold, which Lauber knew about, should not have taken place.
The case against the waiver of immunity was made by the extraordinary federal prosecutor Stefan Keller. According to his findings, there are elements of totally unacceptable behaviour in connection with various meetings which have not been recorded, for reasons which are still not known.
Following Michael Lauber’s hearing, the National Council’s Immunity Committee found that the charges were directly related to his official functions and activities. The Committee expressed the view that there is no doubt that Mr. Lauber attended the meetings in his capacity as Attorney General of the Confederation.
It is also noted that it is important that there should be no immunity for a criminal procedure among high ranking officials. Mr. Lauber will of course have the right to defend himself and show that he has not been guilty of any offence.
Michael Lauber has claimed throughout that the Supervisory Authority of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Federal Criminal Court and the Federal Administrative Court have all examined these meetings without finding any suspicion of illegal acts.
Therefore he has argued that his immunity from prosecution should not be waived in order to ensure the proper functioning of his office. But he has been overruled.
The Judicial Commission of the Federal Chambers will now elect an extraordinary Attorney General of the Swiss Confederation or other appropriate person to conduct the criminal investigation.
Michael Lauber was re-elected for a third term in his job in September 2019 despite a negative opinion of his work given by the Judicial Commission. T He is the first senior federal magistrate ever to have his immunity lifted.
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