Probe found earlier contact between Infantino and prosecutor: report

Paris (AFP) –


A lawyer friend of FIFA chief Gianni Infantino met with Swiss public prosecutor Michael Lauber in 2015 to find out if Infantino, who was planning to run for the FIFA presidency, was the target of a corruption investigation, French daily Le Monde reported on Sunday.

The newspaper said that the information came from the report by the ethics body (AS-MPC)that oversees Swiss ministries into Lauber's dealings with Infantino.

"Mr Infantino had an interest in finding out whether the proceedings were directed at him," the report said, adding that "Mr Infantino was considering running for the presidency of FIFA at the time."

It said Infantino also wanted to find out if two potential presidential rivals were being investigated. Their names are crossed out in the copy of the report obtained by Le Monde.

According to the report, a meeting between Lauber, who is in charge of the investigation into FIFA corruption, which opened in May 2015, and Rinaldo Arnold, senior prosecutor for the Upper Valais canton and a friend of Infantino, took place on July 8, 2015.

While the two said they had discussed "general questions of criminal procedure", the AS-MPC said that "the investigation into FIFA was discussed."

The AS-MPC has been investigating possible collusion between Infantino and Lauber and on Wednesday cut eight per cent from the prosecutor's salary.

The AS-MPC investigated three meetings between Infantino and Lauber, finding that those two 2016 contacts, held shortly after Infantino took charge of FIFA were "not problematic".

But, Lauber told the oversight body he had had no other informal contacts with Infantino -- something that turned out not to be the case.

On Wednesday, AS-MPC said it had evidence of a third Lauber-Infantino meeting in 2017.

"The Attorney-General has repeatedly not told the truth to the AS-MPC, to parliament and to the public about his meeting on June 16, 2017 with the president of FIFA Gianni Infantino. It has been proven that this meeting took place," it said.

It said in a statement it had concluded that "the Attorney-General has breached several of his professional obligations," including "repeatedly not telling the truth" and "acting disloyally."

The investigators also said Lauber had illegally interfered with their probe, and lamented that he had made clear he "sees nothing problematic in his actions, indicating a poor comprehension of his profession."

The disciplinary hearing looked into a series of secret meetings Lauber had with Infantino in the midst of a corruption probe into football's world governing body.

Despite the drawn-out disciplinary hearing, the 54-year-old prosecutor was last September reappointed by parliament to a third term in office.

Switzerland's FIFA investigation concerns alleged misconduct that occurred before Infantino replaced Blatter in 2016.

Lauber's office has steadfastly defended the Infantino meetings, insisting they were logistically necessary given the scope of the FIFA graft probe.