Thursday 23 February 2017

Further arrests expected in FIFA probe

Graham Dunbar in Zurich

FIFA President Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter

FIFA and embattled president Sepp Blatter faced more pressure yesterday as US Attorney General Loretta Lynch warned of new indictments in a widening investigation of corruption in international soccer.

"We do anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities," she said in FIFA's home city, citing unspecified new evidence gathered since the May 27 arrests of seven people at a Zurich hotel.

Lynch spoke at a news conference alongside her Swiss counterpart, Michael Lauber, whose separate investigation of money laundering appears equally threatening to FIFA and its soon-departing chief.

Swiss federal agencies have seized properties in the Swiss Alps and more evidence during house searches in western Switzerland.

"Investment in real estate can be used for the purpose of money laundering," said Lauber, whose case seems to go beyond its original focus of FIFA's criminal complaint about the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Racketeering

A total of 121 bank accounts have been reported as suspicious by a Swiss financial intelligence unit to Lauber's team of prosecutors.

Two days before the FIFA presidential election on May 29, the US Department of Justice indicted 14 soccer and marketing officials in a $150m (€133m) bribery and racketeering conspiracy and unsealed six guilty pleas, including that of Chuck Blazer.

The long-time member of FIFA's executive was a key cooperating witness for federal investigators in Brooklyn where Lynch was formerly US Attorney.

Lynch did not comment yesterday on whether Blatter is targeted in her case, or if he faced arrest by travelling to a country with an extradition treaty with the US.

"I can't give you any information about Mr Blatter's travel plans," said Lynch, drawing laughs from around 150 journalists in a Zurich hotel.

The Swiss case could spread beyond the World Cup bids won by Russia and Qatar as prosecutors sift through massive amounts of data and documents seized from FIFA headquarters in May and June.

Irish Independent

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