Swiss investigating 53 possible cases of money-laundering in FIFA World Cup bids
It has been revealed that banks in Switzerland have flagged up at least 53 possible cases of money-laundering in regards to FIFA and the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals in Russia and Qatar.
Speaking in Bern on Wednesday, Switzerland’s Attorney General Michael Lauber called the investigation “huge and complex” and confirmed that it is targeting “criminal mismanagement and money-laundering” in the bidding process back in 2010 which saw the next two World Cups head to Russia and Qatar respectively.
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The Swiss authorities have not ruled out the possibility of investigating Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke, but say that FIFA’s current president -- who is due to step down in December after allegations of corruption have rocked world soccer’s governing body -- and the secretary general are not currently under suspicion.
Following a warrant to search FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, Swiss prosecutors say they have seized nine terabytes of data and warned that this investigation could take months, even years, to complete. In his press conference Lauber also confirmed they have started interviewing 10 unnamed suspects but could add to those names in the coming weeks and months as the investigation continues.
Lauber was given the 430-page investigation produced by American lawyer Michael Garcia which was submitted last September to FIFA’s ethics committee. Garcia has since resigned when his report was not published in its entirety. During Garcia’s two-year investigation, Russian authorities claimed to have lost important documents on leased computers, while other key individuals refused to cooperate. Lauber also confirmed that a friendly match in 2010 between Argentina and Qatar (just a few days before the World Cup bid) is in question, and that a Swiss-based marketing firm who worked for Brazil in 2010, Kentaro, is also being investigated but is cooperating and has given evidence.
Of course all of this comes alongside a separate investigation by the FBI into alleged long-term corruption by FIFA officials which has seen 14 individuals indicted and four men make guilty pleas as several key FIFA officials are involved in the scandal. A dawn raid by Swiss police on May 27 rounded up officials suspected of corruption adn they then searched FIFA’s HQ just two days before the presidential election which Blatter won. However the 79-year-old has since stated his intention to step down as the leader of the embattled organization.
Swiss officials collected more data from FIFA’s HQ last week, as this investigation looks set to rumble on for quite some time.