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FIFA scandal US poised for fresh football corruption charges

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch updated the media on the FIFA investigations in Zurich on Monday


The United States is anticipating pressing further charges against individuals and entities in its ongoing criminal investigation into football corruption, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a press conference in Zurich on Monday.

Lynch would not elaborate on the identities of those the Department of Justice may charge or give a time scale on this new activity. Nor would she comment on the status of outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter who is facing fresh accusations of involvement in suspicious financial transactions at the global governing body of football.

“Based upon cooperation [with other countries] and new evidence, we anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities,” she said. “I am not able to give you any information on Mr. Blatter’s future travel arrangements,” she said when questioned by journalists at the press conference.

Assets seized

Fourteen people have so far been charged by the US since May, 13 of whom have already been arrested in various countries. Three of the accused are in custody in the US while the others are pending extradition.

A separate Swiss investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, that went to Russia and Qatar, is “not even near the half time break”, according to Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber.

Swiss investigators are currently wading into 11 terabytes of evidence gathered from a raid on FIFA’s Zurich HQ in May, from house searches and reports by banks of suspicious financial transactions.

“Where proportional and needed, financial assets have been seized, including real estate, for example flats in the Swiss Alps,” Lauber elaborated. “At this point I would like to emphasise that investments in real estate can be misused for the purpose of money laundering.”

Lauber added that he thought it strange that hardly any country besides the US has so far asked Switzerland for mutual legal assistance, particularly from the home countries of football officials that have been arrested. “One can only speculate on why this is how it is,” he said.

Broadcasting rights in question 

Criminal investigations into FIFA have been ongoing for several months in both its host nation Switzerland and the US. In May, Swiss police arrested several FIFA members and raided the organisation’s headquarters.

Swiss public television SRF added to the growing list of corruption allegations against FIFA on Friday. SRF’s 10 vor 10 news programme accused Blatter of personally signing off on a contract for television rights for a fraction of their true worth.

10 vor 10 obtained a copy of the contract between FIFA and its former executive Jack Warner, the ex-chief of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) who is currently under investigation for alleged corruption by the US Department of Justice. 

The television broadcasting rights, which were sold to the CFU in September 2005 for $600,000 (CHF580,000), were then re-sold to a marketing firm for a double-digit million-dollar sum. There were two payments made, one for the South Africa World Cup TV rights and the other for the Brazil World Cup rights

FIFA issued a statement on Saturday saying that the CFU failed to meet its obligations to pay further fees on top of the $600,000.

“Under the terms of this agreement FIFA was to receive not only a fixed licensing fee but also a 50% share of any profits related to the subcontracting of these rights. The CFU made several breaches to the contract and failed to meet its financial obligations,” the statement read.

FIFA terminated the contract in July 2011. However, news of the transaction has only heightened suspicions of nepotism and shady financial dealings within the organization.

The DoJ indicted Warner on charges of fraud, money laundering and racketeering earlier this year. He remains in his native Trinidad and Tobago contesting a US bid to have him extradited.

Michael Lauber said he was aware of the allegations contained in the 10 vor 10 news programme but would not be drawn on how his office would pursue this evidence.

International prosecutors’ conference

Switzerland is playing host to the 20th annual conference of the International Association of Prosecutors. Some 10 attorney generals and 500 other delegates from around the world are attending the four-day conference in Zurich.

The conference will explore ways of better coordinating international criminal investigations and intensify links between prosecutors of different countries. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Michael Lauber called on delegates to “find new means of cooperation” to fight new threats to law and order, such as cyber-crime.

Simonetta Sommaruga, Switzerland’s Justice Minister and President this year, spoke of the need to find the right path between tightening up security and respecting individual human rights, such as the right to free speech and privacy.

She said that frequent demands for crackdowns on crime from the public were often hard to put into practice. “Seemingly simple solutions may not achieve the desired results, and might indeed be counterproductive,” she said.

For example, calls for a hardline approach against foreign criminals in Switzerland, Swiss nationals suspected of wanting to fight in foreign Jihadist campaigns and paedophiles could create legal problems if not implemented properly.

Sommaruga added that Switzerland’s system of direct democracy sometimes made it difficult for the government raise its arguments over the party political campaigns, either in favour or against referendums.

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