Statement from Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber on World Cup bidding investigation

June 17, 2015:

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland OAG has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown on the grounds of suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 Football World Cups. That was on 10th March 2015.

“The opening of the OAG’s investigation was based on information contained in the GARCIA report as well as on information taken from the mutual legal request from the US Department of Justice DOJ. Later on, we have also received suspicious activity reports from the Swiss Financial intelligence unit, the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland MROS. I will come back to the last point later on. We are aware that — as in any criminal investigations — different parties are involved with their specific, not necessarily matching interests.

“In Switzerland, criminal investigations have to respect the principle of secrecy. This legal requirement aims to uphold the presumption of innocence and, as a general rule, to do the least possible harm to all the parties involved. However, the goal of a classified criminal investigation is also the establishing of facts without any undo interference. In the case of an overriding public interest, the OAG can decide to disclose information to the broad public. The decision to disclose information has to be taken by the OAG respecting the main goals of the ongoing criminal proceedings and in accordance with the basic principles of criminal procedure.

“Based on these general rules, as a principle I never announce the initiating of criminal proceedings or in general, specific measures in an ongoing investigation. However, I do inform the public when there is something that has to be said. I will keep it this way, also in this current investigation. Having said that, I am well aware of the enormous public interest in our investigation. Equally enormous is the public interest in an independent criminal procedure.

“Our investigation is of great complexity and quite substantial. To give you an example: The OAG has seized around 9 Terabytes of Data. So far, our investigative team obtained evidence concerning 104 banking relations; be aware that every banking relation represents several bank accounts. This implies that the OAG has to process huge amounts of data.

“At the moment we are analyzing the unsealed and therefore accessible data. Based on this analysis, we define priorities in our investigation. I set up a tailor-maid Task Force. The head of the OAG’s white-collar crime division leads this Task Force. You find in that Task Force specialized and experienced prosecutors, experts in mutual legal assistance and a specialized forensic IT team from the Federal Criminal Police. Following the tactical needs of the investigation, the Task Force will be focused or extended. We note positively that banks in Switzerland did fulfill their duties to file suspicious activity reports. Partly in addition to the 104 banking relations already known to the authorities, banks announced 53 suspicious banking relations via the Anti-Money-Laundering-Framework of Switzerland.

“The procedure is huge and complex on many levels. I am well aware of that and will act accordingly. The risk of loss of evidence is obvious. Any kind of information on the ongoing investigation provided to the public can boost the danger of suppression of evidence. In this regard the OAG will not put at risk investigations neither in Switzerland nor abroad by any wrong acting or wrong communicating. Let me emphasize: The Swiss investigations are executed independently from the prosecutions of our US colleagues. Therefore, documents and data of our Swiss investigation will not be shared automatically with the US counterpart. The exchange of information has to respect the binding rules of mutual legal assistance.

“In concluding, we are faced with a complex investigation with many international implications. The prosecution is ongoing and will take time. It would not be professional to communicate at this moment a detailed time table. The world of Football needs to be patient. By its nature, this investigation will take more than the legendary 90 minutes. Be assured: The OAG will give priority to this case and will act according to the principles of the rule of law. There will be formal interviews of all relevant people. By definition, this does not exclude interviewing the President of FIFA and / or its Secretary General. Thank you very much for your interest in our work. Thank you for your understanding that after this information we will once again focus on our investigation.”