- Individuals, entities may be charged based on new evidence
- Corruption probe has expanded since May, Lynch says in Zurich
U.S. Attorney-General Loretta Lynch said more individuals and entities may be charged as the Department of Justice continues its pledge to clean up world soccer’s governing body.
American prosecutors have charged that millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks were doled out for media rights to soccer tournaments. Cooperation from the Swiss authorities has resulted in new evidence emerging about FIFA activities, Lynch said at a press conference with Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber in Zurich. Authorities have also seized assets including apartments in the Swiss Alps, Lauber said.
“The problem of corruption in soccer is global, and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to support a global response,” Lynch said to a hotel conference room packed with reporters. Security was tight and journalists had their bags searched by sniffer dogs.
Days after FIFA’s compliance chief went public with his recommendations to make the sport’s global governing body more transparent, Lynch is outlining the next steps in her push to root out corruption in the game. Swiss police arrested seven FIFA officials in Zurich in May on the eve of the organization’s annual congress after the U.S. Department of Justice charged them with crimes including racketeering and money laundering. Six of the seven remain behind bars in Zurich awaiting a decision on whether the Swiss will extradite them to the U.S.
Lauber, who is leading a separate probe into alleged wrongdoing as part of the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar, said today that Swiss police have searched homes in western Switzerland and taken evidence.
As part of the case they opened in May against “persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement,” Swiss prosecutors seized documents from FIFA headquarters and are now sifting through 11 terabytes of data involving hundreds of suspicious Swiss bank accounts brought to their attention by the country’s Money-Laundering Reporting Office.
Much remains to be done and the Swiss are looking for greater cooperation to accelerate the case, Lauber said today.
“We are not even near the halftime break,” Lauber told reporters.
Domenico Scala, the chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, said Sept. 10 that he suggested term limits for senior FIFA officials and that making those recommendations public was important to making the reform process transparent.
Francois Carrard, the head of FIFA’s reform committee, told reporters on Sept. 3 that a list of reform proposals probably won’t be ready before December and declined to say what he’d discussed in a two-day meeting of his committee. Carrard, a Swiss lawyer, was approached for the job by a member of the executive committee. Carrard said Sepp Blatter, the long-standing FIFA president who is stepping down in February despite his recent reelection, wasn’t the official who reached out to him.
Lynch declined to comment when asked if Blatter, who was not among the FIFA officials charged in May, might be one of those whom the U.S. is considering charging now.
“I’m not going to comment at this time on individuals who may or may not be the subject of the next round of arrests, therefore I’m not able to give you information about Mr. Blatter’s travel plans,” she said to laughter from the audience.