FIFA inquiry identifies 53 ‘money-laundering’ cases

Swiss attorney-general Michael Lauber is mobbed by the media as he gives an update on his investigation. Picture: AP
Swiss attorney-general Michael Lauber is mobbed by the media as he gives an update on his investigation. Picture: AP
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SWISS banks have noted 53 possible money-laundering incidents in the investigation of FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests, the country’s attorney-general has revealed.

Michael Lauber said the “suspicious bank relations” were reported within the framework of Switzerland’s anti-money laundering regulations.

Lauber said he “does not exclude” interviewing FIFA President Sepp Blatter and secretary-general Jerome Valcke in the future, though neither are currently under suspicion.

Addressing the media for the first time since the Swiss investigation into FIFA was announced three weeks ago, Lauber said the case is “huge and complex.”

Lauber declined to discuss a timetable for the case, which targets “criminal mismanagement and money-laundering” in the bidding contests which sent the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Still, the federal prosecutor is prepared for either country to be stripped of the hosting rights if new evidence proves wrongdoing.

“I don’t mind if this has some collateral (damage) somewhere else,” Lauber said.

“I don’t care about the timetable of FIFA. I care very much about my own timetable which I can’t disclose.”

Lauber would not be drawn on whether South Africa’s successful bid for the 2010 World Cup – which allegedly involved a $10 million bribe – was also within the scope of his investigation.

“This is a dynamic process,” Lauber said. “It could really go everywhere and that is why I don’t want to tell you in which direction I put my focus.

“I have coercive measures and I am independent,” Lauber said at a news conference called after his re-election by federal authorities for a four-year mandate.

Football’s world governing body sent Lauber a 430-page investigation report submitted last September by FIFA’s former ethics prosecutor, Michael Garcia.

The former US attorney from the Southern District of New York led a team which spent two years investigating the World Cup bidding contests, which included nine candidates from 11 countries.

However, Garcia could not compel some FIFA voters to meet with him and did not have subpoena powers to gather key evidence. Russian officials failed to provide much evidence, claiming that computers used by bid staffers were leased and later destroyed.

Mr Lauber said he did not rule out interviews with FIFA president Sepp Blatter as part of his investigation.

FIFA is facing claims of widespread corruption after Swiss police raided a hotel in Zurich and arrested seven of its top executives last month.

The seven were held at the request of the US justice department which has charged 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption.

The charges follow a three-year investigation staged by the FBI.

Sepp Blatter has denied any wrongdoing and announced earlier this month that he will resign.