FIFA Corruption Scandal Fallout Grows

Banks are now reviewing whether they complied with bribery and money-laundering laws when they processed allegedly illegal payments linked to a huge corruption scandal at FIFA.

FIFA HQ in Zurich - Image from Wikimedia by MCavigliaThe Wall Street Journal reports that three British banks – Barclays PLC, Standard Chartered, and HSBC Holdings PLC – are combing their records to check the details of a list of transactions that allegedly funneled bribe money between companies and senior FIFA officials.

Seven high-level FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich last Wednesday.

An indictment issued in the United States last week revealed the names of more than a dozen financial institutions that prosecutors suspect were used in illegal transactions as part of a bribery scheme worth as much as US$ 150 million.

There is no allegation of wrongdoing by the banks in the indictment, but UK newspaper The Telegraph reports that the institutions are assessing the transactions “as a precautionary measure” nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Swiss authorities have opened up a criminal investigation into the selection process behind the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which are slated to be hosted by Russia and Qatar respectively.

Speaking to the New York Times, Richard Weber, head of criminal investigations at the Inland Revenue Service (IRS), said that he foresaw further indictments beyond those of the 14 officials from several football confederations who are already officially under suspicion.

He did not give details about the IRS’s targets, or whether they included controversial FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Despite the scandal, Blatter was re-elected as FIFA president on Friday.

International Reactions

The fallout from the affair has spread to many countries.

The Guardian reports that a congressional inquiry has been launched in Brazil into alleged money laundering and tax evasion related to the case. José Maria Marin, former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), was among those arrested in Zurich last week. Current CBF president Marco Del Nero ordered Marin’s name to be removed from outside its headquarters in Rio De Janeiro. Del Nero has flown to Zurich to work on mitigating the ongoing crisis.

Jack Warner, Sepp Blatter, and Barack Obama in 2009In a bizarre turn of events, former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who was also arrested last Wednesday, cited an article from satirical news website The Onion in a video posted to his own website and social media outlets. In a major PR blunder that has been subject to much online ridicule, Warner quoted an article entitled “FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup in the United States” to demonstrate a perceived “double standard” by US officials. He apparently did not realize the article was a work of humor.

Warner is also a member of Parliament in Trinidad and Tobago. He now faces extradition to the United States, but maintains his innocence. He quit his role at FIFA in 2011, after the FIFA Ethics Committee opened a graft investigation against him. Upon his resignation, the case was closed and FIFA announced that his “presumption of innocence [was] maintained”.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced his concerns over the United States’ involvement in prosecuting FIFA. He called it a “blatant attempt” by the US to extend its jurisdiction to other countries and meddle in foreign affairs. Putin reportedly sent a personal telegram to embattled FIFA President Blatter, congratulating him on his reelection.