Swiss prosecutor asking for cooperation with FIFA corruption cases
BERN, Switzerland -- Switzerland's attorney general has a message for his foreign counterparts as his office pores over reams of seized documents and dozens of criminal cases linked to FIFA: "Come to us."
Michael Lauber said Friday the investigations require both quick action and patience, and noted "good developments" like how growing cooperation has led to 45 requests for legal assistance from Switzerland with regard to football.
Lauber said the prospect of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is being investigated for "disloyal management," facing a day in court "depends on if we can prove something."
"He has a good lawyer," Lauber said, alluding to Lorenz Erni, who also represented film director Roman Polanski.
One of the complexities, Lauber said, is that Swiss law has no clause for cases of private corruption, meaning that his team has to find creative ways of going after suspected wrongdoing at times -- as with the disloyal management allegations against Blatter.
"What everybody wants is a fair sport environment. And if there is wrongdoing, it should be announced to the authorities and then they should start cooperating together," he said, pointing to good coordination with countries like the United States and Germany on the football file.
"The message remains since 2015: come to us and ask what we can do," Lauber said.
Lauber's office has about 25 cases opened linked to FIFA and football, and has a staggering 19 terabytes of seized documents at its disposal.
Lauber made the comments to The Associated Press and other reporters after detailing his office's work in 2017.
Overall, Lauber's office was investigating nearly 500 cases at the end of last year, an 8 percent increase from 2016.
He pointed to more than 100 criminal proceedings focusing on any possible Swiss connection -- primarily financial -- to the "Car Wash" corruption probe in Brazil, over overpriced contracts signed by state-owned oil giant Petrobras and major constructors. Dozens of business leaders and politicians have been jailed in the investigation in Brazil.
Lauber said Swiss authorities have seized more than 1 billion Swiss francs (about $1 billion) in the Petrobras dossier, of which about $200 million has been refunded to "their rightful owners."
Lauber's office also has put Switzerland in a central role among multiple country investigations into possible embezzlement and money-laundering by the Malaysian state development fund 1MDB, which was set up by current Prime Minister Najib Razak. Najib, who is running for re-election, has denied wrongdoing.