UBS, German Soccer Body Targeted in Expanding FIFA Probe

  • Credit Suisse disclosed on Oct. 30 it was questioned by police
  • German soccer association raided by prosecutors in tax probe

The crisis at soccer’s global governing body continues to spread as authorities in Germany and Switzerland target banks and national sport associations for financial transactions linked to FIFA.

QuickTake The World Cup

UBS Group AG said Tuesday that it received inquiries from authorities about its banking relationships with FIFA officials, days after rival Credit Suisse Group AG disclosed it was being questioned. In Germany, prosecutors and police raided the country’s soccer association in a probe into a 6.7 million-euro payment ($7.4 million) to FIFA linked to the country’s application to host the 2006 World Cup.

UBS said the inquiries are about FIFA and “other constituent soccer associations.” The Zurich-based bank declined to name those bodies when it released the information in its third-quarter financial report.

“FIFA is cooperating with the relevant authorities,” a spokesman said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday.“ An essential component of our efforts is an independent internal investigation conducted with the assistance of our external counsel.”

Arrests

The arrest in May of seven soccer officials in Zurich on the eve of FIFA’s congress and the indictment of seven others on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering has led to a widening series of investigations in Europe and the U.S. In September, the Swiss Attorney General opened criminal proceedings into FIFA President Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter over a 2 million-franc ($2 million) payment he made to European soccer chief Michel Platini. Both men have said they did nothing illegal but have been suspended by FIFA for 90 days.

Several banks, including Zurich-based Julius Baer Group Ltd., started internal investigations after the U.S. Justice Department named them in the May indictment. In the U.K., Standard Chartered Plc, has said it’s looking into two payments it cleared that were mentioned in the FIFA indictment. HSBC Holdings Plc and Barclays Plc, both based in London, are also studying transactions to ensure proper procedures were followed, the Sunday Times reported in May.

Credit Suisse said on Oct. 30 that it’s cooperating with U.S. and Swiss investigations into whether financial institutions allowed the processing of suspicious transactions, or failed to observe anti-money laundering laws in their dealings with FIFA.

German Probe

German prosecutors are looking at the current president of the soccer association, known as DFB, as well as its leader in 2006, for aggravated tax evasion, prosecutor spokeswoman Nadja Niesen said in an e-mailed statement, without using their names.

Both worked in the 2006 championship organization committee. The DFB’s current president is Wolfgang Niersbach. In 2006, it was headed by Theo Zwanziger. The homes of suspects were also raided, Niesen said.

"The suspects allegedly evaded tax in 2006 by filing a wrong declaration," Niesen said. "The 2005 payment of 6.7 million euros was declared as a grant for a cultural event while in reality it is alleged to have been used for a different purpose."

Frankfurt prosecutors can no longer investigate any corruption-related crimes because the alleged acts happened too long ago, Niesen said.

Internal Probe

FIFA said it’s investigating the allegations involving the DFB, the German Organizing Committee and FIFA’s Finance Committee.

“In addition to reviewing its own records, FIFA has formally requested that DFB produce all records and information relating to the payments in question,” the FIFA spokesman said in the e-mailed statement. “Given that the internal investigation is ongoing, FIFA will not comment further on the issue.​”

The payment has been discussed in Germany since an Oct. 16 Spiegel magazine report that said local World Cup organizers may have paid money in return for votes. The nation’s football association has been unable to fully shed light on why the money was paid to FIFA in exchange for a $250 million grant the world soccer governing body awarded to the organizers after it won the vote.

The DFB is fully cooperating with the investigation, the association said in a statement on its website. Zwanziger’s lawyer, Hans-Joerg Metz, said earlier Tuesday he hadn’t been aware of the raids and he didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail with follow-up questions.

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