“Just a little breeze”
November 2018: The trouble begins. At the end of the Football Leaks, the largest ever orchestrated leak of confidential sports documents, two meetings between Michael Lauber and Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, surface. The problem: the football federation is under investigation by the MPC, the two talks were kept secret by the Soleurois and no minutes were written. “Nothing abnormal in the activities of the MPC”, defends however Michael Lauber, who justifies these interviews as “necessary for the general understanding of the complex of the investigations in the field of football as well as to clarify the position of FIFA as complainant and injured party ”. In front of the journalists, he adds “not to be too embarrassed” by these revelations, which he describes as “small breeze”.
However, the wind is picking up. In April 2019, an investigation into Rinaldo Arnold, prosecutor of Haut-Valais at the origin of the two controversial meetings, reveals a third meeting between Michael Lauber and Gianni Infantino dated June 2017. Still without a report. After the first turmoil, the Attorney General had nevertheless assured the monitoring body of the MPC that there had only been two.
He does not know it yet, but this omission will be fatal to him. This Friday, it was also her that the TAF considered the most serious violation of its duties. The Soleurois will however deny having lied even in his letter of resignation. His defense on the subject has always been the same: he does not “remember” it. Unconvinced, the MPC’s supervisory authority opened a disciplinary investigation against him in May 2019. Michael Lauber did not resign, but the wind turned stormy. And the schedule is tight.
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“Fluctuates not sink”
After eight years at the head of the MPC, the Soleur must submit to his own re-election in June. However, a federal commission must recommend – or not – that he be reappointed. Will the investigation be successful by then? What about a positive recommendation if the procedure reveals shortcomings? In order not to make any mistakes, the decision was made to postpone the thing until the fall. The lull will last barely a month. In July, the Complaints Court of the Federal Criminal Court challenges the prosecutor in the FIFA case and the Soleurois digs up the hatchet. He takes a lawyer and files a request for review (which will be refused) on the grounds that one of the magistrates behind the challenge would have made derogatory remarks towards him. Under the federal dome, opinions diverge and the air begins to thicken.
“He is a decision maker and we will not find anyone else so quickly,” says national councilor Christian Luscher (PLR / GE). “He attacks the institutions and must leave”, contests his colleague Carlo Sommaruga (PS / GE). In September, another twist: the Judicial Commission takes a stand against his re-election. Stoic, the principal concerned had already indicated that he would represent himself whatever the verdict. In 2011, his predecessor Erwin Beyeler received positive notice before being dismissed by the Federal Assembly.
Is the opposite scenario possible? The prosecutor believes in his lucky star and he is right: a few days later, he is re-elected by a hair. It will be calm before the final hurricane. In March 2020, the disciplinary proceedings initiated the year before found a violation of the code of conduct on the part of the prosecutor, who is also accused of obstructing the investigation against him. His behavior is punished by a reduction in salary of 8% over one year (he earns around 300,000 francs). As usual, Michael Lauber chose to respond with an attack and appealed. However, the federal Berne is beginning to lose patience.
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In May, the Judicial Commission of the Federal Assembly decides to launch a dismissal procedure. In June, three criminal complaints were filed against him. In July, an extraordinary federal prosecutor was appointed to deal with it. Finally, this Friday, the TAF plants the last nail by confirming the conclusions of the disciplinary proceedings launched in 2019. Small victory, the court also decides to reduce its salary reduction from 8 to 5%. Michael Lauber, however, considered that the time had come to surrender. His departure completed, remains to help the reputation of the MPC, well underway in Switzerland and abroad.