November 9, 2018 / 12:31 PM / 8 days ago

Swiss suspend white-collar crimefighter amid FIFA probe

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss federal prosecutors have suspended the head of their white-collar crime unit while they check allegations about his conduct of investigations into suspected corruption at world soccer body FIFA.

FILE PHOTO: Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber attends his yearly news conference in Bern, Switzerland April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

The suspension of Olivier Thormann and the naming of a special prosecutor to look into the matter comes amid other high-profile investigations by the economic crime division, including into scandals surrounding Malaysian state fund 1MDB and Brazilian energy group Petrobras.

Federal Prosector Michael Lauber received information in late September including allegations against Thormann, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said in a statement on Friday, confirming a report by the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

“The information on which this decision is based is related to the OAG’s criminal proceedings in the field of soccer and its governing body FIFA,” it said.

“At the end of September 2018, Federal Prosecutor Michael Lauber received information with allegations against the head of the economic crime division of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office,” it added.

It said the information “may be of criminal relevance”, without elaborating.

It said it took the precautionary steps as standard measures to preserve the integrity of the OAG and its investigations and that Thormann, who left by mutual agreement, enjoyed the presumption of innocence.

Thormann could not be reached via the OAG for comment. His private telephone number is not listed.

The OAG has filed no charges in its investigations into FIFA to date.

The OAG said the allegations about Thormann had nothing to do with two meetings between leaders of the OAG and FIFA that became public following publication of the so-called “Football Leaks” this month.

German magazine Der Spiegel and European Investigative Collaborations, a network of international media, reported that FIFA chief Gianni Infantino had broken FIFA rules by interfering in the rewriting of its ethics code.

A 2015 FBI raid in Zurich saw seven officials arrested on corruption charges. More than 40 entities and individuals have been charged by U.S. prosecutors in connection with the FIFA investigation.

Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by Andrew Roche

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