53 pos­si­ble money-laun­der­ing cases in FIFA probe: Swiss AG

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY GRAHAM DUN­BAR

Banks in Switzer­land have re­ported 53 pos­si­ble acts of mon­ey­laun­der­ing in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid­ding con­tests, the coun­try’s at­tor­ney-gen­eral said Wed­nes­day

Michael Lauber said the “sus­pi­cious bank re­la­tions” were filed to com­ply with Switzer­land’s reg­u­la­tions against money laun­der­ing.

The fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor de­scribed a “huge and com­plex” 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.

Lauber 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,” he said, ad­dress­ing the media for the first time since the Swiss in­ves­ti­ga­tion into FIFA was an­nounced three weeks ago.

Lauber said he “does not ex­clude” in­ter­view­ing FIFA Presi- dent Sepp Blat­ter and Sec­re­taryGen­eral Jerome Val­cke in the fu­ture, though they are not cur­rently un­der sus­pi­cion.

Blat­ter is also a tar­get of a sep­a­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tion of bribery and rack­e­teer­ing led by U.S. fed­eral agen­cies, who are work­ing with Swiss author­i­ties.

The Amer­i­can case al­leged that se­nior FIFA vot­ers re­ceived US$10 mil­lion in bribes to sup­port South Africa’s suc­cess­ful bid for the 2010 World Cup. Val­cke has been linked to trans­fer­ring the money from a FIFA ac­count on be­half of South African of­fi­cials.

Lauber would not be drawn on whether the South African case was also within the scope of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

FIFA be­gan the 2018 and 2022 case by fil­ing a crim­i­nal com­plaint against “per­sons un­known” last Novem­ber.

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

Lauber, who led units spe­cial­iz­ing in or­ga­nized crime in Swit- zer­land and money laun­der­ing in Liecht­en­stein, said Wed­nes­day that his task force is an­a­lyz­ing nine ter­abytes of data.

Some of the 53 sus­pi­cious trans­ac­tions are among 104 in­ci­dents pre­vi­ously no­ti­fied to Swiss and Amer­i­can fed­eral author­i­ties, he said.

Lauber’s team has also pur­sued a line of in­quiry into pay­ments linked to a friendly match be­tween Ar­gentina and Brazil played in Doha two weeks be­fore the FIFA vote. Both coun­tries had long-serv­ing del­e­gates on FIFA’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

An ex­ec­u­tive with Swiss-based mar­ket­ing agency Ken­taro, who worked with the Brazil team in 2010, told The As­so­ci­ated Press he gave ev­i­dence to Swiss po­lice on May 27.

Lauber said Wed­nes­day that Ken­taro was “a very in­ter­est­ing and very good com­pany” which co­op­er­ated with the probe.

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

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