FIFA Should Be Included in Swiss Money Laundering Laws

Swiss lawmakers intend to broaden money laundering laws that target political figures to include sports officials from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.

The legal committee of Parliament’s lower house approved a proposal to expand Swiss banks’ scrutiny of accounts and transfers to include international sporting organizations, according to a statement published today. The decision, which follows that of an upper house panel, is non-binding and requires endorsement by the plenary body in Bern.

Switzerland, one of the world’s largest offshore financial centers, is home of Zurich-based FIFA, soccer’s global governing body headed by 78-year-old Swiss citizen Sepp Blatter, the IOC in Lausanne and European soccer’s ruling body UEFA in Nyon.

The Swiss government has taken a variety of steps to clamp down on money laundering in recent years, including freezing the assets of former Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in the wake of the Arab spring. This year it issued a similar order on money belonging to Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

“FIFA has repeatedly said that it supports government measures to protect the integrity of the sport and the fight against corruption,” the organization said by e-mail.

FIFA Wrongdoing

UEFA said it “fully supports this initiative of the Swiss Parliament, as the safeguarding of the ethical and moral values of sport are of utmost importance,” according to an e-mailed statement. The organization yesterday signed an agreement with European police body Europol to join forces to fight match fixing, it said.

“The IOC welcomes any discussions and measures that would promote good governance and the fight against scourges like corruption across all sectors of society,” it said in a statement.

The bill before parliament would give the government a more comprehensive legal basis for the freezing and restitution of illicitly acquired assets, it said in a statement earlier this month.

FIFA was forced to enact changes in 2011 after several officials were sanctioned for wrongdoing. They included Mohamed bin Hammam, a FIFA vice-president and the former head of Asian soccer, who was accused of offering $1 million to officials in the Caribbean to support his bid to unseat Blatter.

Match Fixing

Two board members were also suspended in 2010 after they were taped agreeing to sell their votes for World Cup staging rights to undercover reporters. Last year, FIFA said that its ex-president Joao Havelange and his former son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, previously head of Brazilian soccer, improperly accepted payments from FIFA’s marketing partner ISL in exchange for broadcast rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

The IOC faced a bribery scandal over Salt Lake City’s bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Several officials were expelled and the organization was forced to strengthen its ethics code.

In the past few years several soccer match-fixing cases spanning the globe have come to light. A network based in Singapore is alleged to have been responsible for rigging or attempting to fix 680 local, national and international matches across the world between 2008 and 2011, according to Europol.