Swiss prosecutor cleared of misconduct in FIFA case

GENEVA (AP) — A Swiss prosecutor who led a four-year corruption investigation into FIFA and international soccer officials is out of the job.

Although federal prosecutor Olivier Thormann was cleared of possible misconduct in the FIFA investigation, he has left work, the office of Switzerland’s attorney general said Friday.

“Attorney General Michael Lauber and Olivier Thormann have agreed that the latter’s employment contract will be terminated,” the federal office said in a statement. “This step has been taken following joint discussions and a thorough assessment of the situation.”

It is unclear how the change will affect a long and ongoing soccer investigation that saw criminal proceedings opened against former FIFA president Sepp Blatter , German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer and Paris Saint-Germain chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi . No charges have been brought and they deny wrongdoing.

In a separate development, a Swiss regional parliament asked its judicial commission to investigate possible conflicts of interest between a regional prosecutor and his childhood friend, FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Their relationship was detailed this month in the “Football Leaks” series of confidential documents and emails.

Thormann’s suspension from leading the financial crimes unit was revealed last week, following a complaint filed in September. Details of the complaint were not specified but it was linked to an investigation of suspected money laundering and financial crimes tied to FIFA business and World Cup bidding contests.

The federal office said the suspension had been “a precautionary measure” while a special prosecutor assessed the complaint.

“(The) criminal proceedings against … Olivier Thormann have been abandoned in respect of all allegations,” the statement said.

While at the federal office, Thormann worked with prosecutors worldwide, including the U.S. Department of Justice, and on the sprawling Brazilian bribery case known as Operation Car Wash.

Lauber’s office thanked Thormann “for the work he has done, in particular in successfully establishing the White-Collar Crime Division as a center of expertise in combating international corruption, money laundering and general white-collar crime.”

The Swiss investigation of FIFA started in November 2014 when the soccer body 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 after early-morning raids at a five-star hotel in Zurich.

In the U.S. case, more than 40 soccer and marketing officials have made guilty pleas or been indicted. Two were convicted last December after a trial lasting more than a month at Brooklyn federal court.

Also Friday in Switzerland, members of the Valais parliament voted 120-1 to seek further investigation of reported links between prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold and Infantino, who grew up in the region.

According to “Football Leaks,” Arnold helped arrange and attended a meeting between Lauber and Infantino in 2016, then accepted FIFA hospitality to attend meetings in Mexico and the World Cup in Russia. Infantino has said he broke no FIFA rules.