The web of FIFA 2015 corruption scandal, revolving the awarding of World Cup hosting bid to Russia for 2018 and Qatar for 2022, is only getting dense. The Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber, who has been looking into the corruption probe of football world’s governing body, forgot to report his three meetings with FIFA head Gianni Infantino. Lauber did not admit to the third meeting at first which later unfurled much more about his ‘fair’ treatment to the probe. Due to these informal meetings, the special investigation team has asked Lauber not only to step down from the FIFA probe but also from getting re-elected as Federal Prosecutor for the third term in September.
Lauber was first introduced to Infantino by his childhood friend, Rinaldo Arnold, who also happens to be a local prosecutor. Down to the three secret meetings, out of which the first was held on 22 March 2016, at the Hotel Schweizerhof in Bern, a property owned by a Qatari Real Estate Company.
The second meeting between the Federal Prosecutor and FIFA head was held, on April 22, 2016 (a day after Infantino met Qatari Emir) at Au premier restaurant in Zurich. In order to make sure that Infantino did not miss his meeting with Lauber, the 39-year-old Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani made arrangements for Infantino’s travel to Switzerland in his private jet. According to Lauber, he held a meeting with Infantino to discuss just to discuss “procedural issues”, but did not give many details about the same.
The third controversial meeting which all the attendees (Infantino, Lauber, Arnold and communications head André Marty) feigned to be unaware of, was also held at Schweizerhof, in the Meeting Room III on June 16, 2017. Besides messages exchanged between Marty and Arnold, Lauber’s electronic agenda with Infantino’s initials (G.I.) revealed some details about the meeting.
Interestingly, the Meeting Room III of the hotel is at a close distance to the Embassy of Qatar – situated on the opposite side of the hall. The headquarters of the Embassy of Qatar temporarily shifted on the first floor of the Hotel Schweizerhof, as the residence in the Bernese district of Kirchenfeld, has been under reconstruction.
The key questions which raise suspicion are One, why did Lauber try to hide the details and content of the meetings, especially the third one. Second, how can a meeting be organized in a Qatar-owned hotel, near Embassy of Qatar when the Federal Prosecutor’s Office is conducting criminal proceedings about Russia and Qatar winning the bid to host World Cup in 2018 and 2022 respectively. Third, if there was no urgency about the second meeting, as it involved only ‘procedural issues’ why was Infantino dropped in Switzerland in Qatar Emir’s private jet, instead of a normal commercial aircraft.
With different layers of FIFA corruption scandal coming to surface, disclosing how Qatar bribed the football governing body to host the 2022 World Cup, the event should be canceled and Qatar should be boycotted by the international sports body to preserve the authenticity of the sport.