The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office has widened its criminal probe into alleged money laundering surrounding the FIFA World Cup bids by Russia and Qatar. The number of suspicious transactions has increased from 53 to 81.
The investigation kicked off in May when prosecutors seized data and documents from FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. The under-fire governing body of world football had itself initiated the action by bringing a complaint to the prosecutor’s office.
On the same day, May 27, Zurich police arrested seven football officials in connection with a separate criminal probe in the United States. One suspect agreed last week to be extradited to the US, while the process continues for the other six.
The Swiss investigation centres on allegations that the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, which were won respectively by Russia and Qatar, were rigged by the payment of bribes.
On June 17, Swiss public prosecutor Michael Lauber said that banks had alerted his office to 53 suspicious transactions. Following media stories at the weekend, it was confirmed on Monday that the number of suspect payments has now risen by more than 50%.
Several individuals have been questioned by prosecutors, but so far FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter has not been among those called in.
Last month, Lauber told the media that the investigation could take some time to complete. “The world of football must be patient. It will take more than the legendary 90 minutes. It could be months or years,” he said.