TWO major British banks have launched internal reviews into whether their global finance networks were used to transfer payments by officials embroiled in the corruption scandal gripping world football’s governing body.
Barclays and Standard Chartered are understood to have started investigating allegations that their accounts were the focus of illicit money transfers at the heart of the scandal involving FIFA.
The US Department of Justice named several UK-based finance institutions in an extensive indictment against 14 individuals including seven Fifa officials accused of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
Although there is no suggestion the banks themselves were complicit in criminal activity, details of any transactions under their watch could form a key body of evidence in the US-led investigation.
As part of the US case, the FBI referred to a series of international banks, among them three UK organisations – Barclays, Standard Chartered and HSBC. Barclays declined to comment, as did HSBC, but the former firm is believed to have launched a review.
Standard Chartered said it is “looking into the payments.”
The Serious Fraud Office is assessing “material in its possession” relating to allegations of corruption at Fifa.
It comes as the fallout from last week’s re-election of Sepp Blatter as Fifa’s president intensified, further threatening the global stability of the game.
Yesterday, the 79-year-old’s daughter, Corrine, launched an extraordinary defence of her father, claiming he was the victim of a conspiracy from “behind the scenes”.
But senior political and sporting figures joined the chorus of criticism against Mr Blatter, now in his fifth term at the helm of Fifa. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon supported calls by Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, for an urgent change to Fifa’s governance model.
She said: “I support the calls of Stewart Regan for urgent changes to the way Fifa is governed and share his disappointment at the Fifa election result.
“A change of Fifa leadership appears to me to be crucial to rebuilding its reputation.”
Andy Burnham, regarded as a favourite to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader, said England should boycott the next World Cup in protest at the “appalling state” of Fifa.
Mr Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said there was a “pretty overwhelming case” for English football authorities to pull out of the next World Cup in Russia. He said: “If enough people take that stand and follow our lead, then we will see new arrangements for the 2018 World Cup which I believe is what we need.”
Greg Dyke, the chairman of the English Football Association, urged Michel Platini, the president of Uefa, to “lead the opposition” as the prospect of a breakaway organisation looms ever larger.
Mr Dyke said several countries in Europe were prepared to act, but Mr Platini, the president of Uefa, had to spearhead the challenge to Fifa.
He said: “It does require real leadership and Mr Platini has now got to stand up. He stood up and criticised Sepp Blatter – he’s now got to lead the opposition.”