news 4 days ago

Swiss prosecutor suspended while leading FIFA investigation

The Associated Press — By GRAHAM DUNBAR - AP Sports Writer

GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland's chief economic crimes prosecutor was suspended last week while leading an investigation into corruption linked to FIFA, the federal prosecutor's office said Friday.

It was unclear how Olivier Thormann's suspension will affect the integrity of ongoing criminal proceedings.

Soccer officials under criminal suspicion include former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer and Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the chairman of Paris Saint-Germain and Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group. They deny wrongdoing and have not been charged.

"This decision is based on a risk assessment which focuses, in particular, on protecting (the attorney general's office) as an institution and protecting the criminal proceedings it leads," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Thormann was the subject of complaints filed in late September and was suspended by his employers "in order to clarify the situation."

He did not immediately respond to an emailed request from The Associated Press for comment.

The federal agency gave no details why Thormann was suspended, but confirmed it related to the four-year investigation of FIFA and international soccer officials.

That investigation started in November 2014 when FIFA filed a criminal complaint into suspected money laundering in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

The case grew to include all FIFA business, working with American prosecutors who unsealed indictments and guilty pleas in May 2015. Seven soccer officials, including two FIFA vice presidents, were arrested on the day of early-morning raids at a five-star hotel in Zurich.

Swiss officials later opened criminal proceedings against Blatter for suspected mismanagement. Beckenbauer and other organizers of the 2006 World Cup are linked to a suspicious payment of 6.7 million euros ($7.6 million).

Al-Khelaifi was questioned in Bern in October 2017 about the suspected bribery of former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke to help secure a 2026-2030 World Cup broadcasting rights deal for BeIN.

Thormann's suspension comes days after Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger reported a possible conflict of interest between another Swiss prosecutor and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino, a childhood friend.

The prosecutor in Infantino's home region, Rinaldo Arnold, offered to mediate between Bern and FIFA, and attended a 2016 meeting Infantino had with attorney general Michael Lauber.

Lauber's office said the suspension revealed Friday was not linked to reports about Infantino and Arnold arising from the "Football Leaks" documents.

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