53 possible money-laundering cases in FIFA probe: Lauber

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

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:00 pm IST

Published - June 17, 2015 05:17 pm IST - Bern

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

The Swiss Attorney-General 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.

Mr. 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.

Mr. Lauber said he “does not exclude” interviewing FIFA president Sepp Blatter and secretary-general 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 $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.

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

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

The former U.S. 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, Mr. 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, and claimed computers used by bid staffers were leased and later destroyed.

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