U.S. Probes Bank Links in FIFA Marketing Corruption Scandal
The U.S. is examining banks’ conduct as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe of international soccer that has led to charges against 14 people, including officials with the sport’s organizing body.
Money involved in the two-decade-old bribery scheme passed through U.S. banks including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to the U.S. Justice Department’s indictment. That helps give the U.S. the right to pursue prosecutions against the foreign nationals involved, and also to examine the role of the banks, acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie in Brooklyn, N.Y., said at a news conference Wednesday.
Read the full FIFA indictment here.
“Our investigation is going to look at a broad area of conduct,” Currie said. “A lot of the banking institutions and the ways these moneys were funneled passed through the U.S.”
The indictment doesn’t accuse the banks of wrongdoing, and didn’t indicate whether transfers in the FIFA case should have raised alarms or whether banks alerted the government. Financial firms in the U.S. are obligated to flag suspicious transactions to federal money-laundering authorities.
It’s unlikely that U.S. prosecutors will seek to build cases against banks, in part because account-holders were international executives, not established criminals, said attorneys familiar with banking law. Accounts that can be shown to contain illegal kickbacks can be frozen by U.S. authorities, they said.
Citigroup has been cooperating with the Justice Department during its investigation, said Mark Costiglio, a spokesman. JPMorgan declined to comment.
In one case dating back a decade, executives from a company seeking Caribbean media rights for the 2010 World Cup wired $40,000 from an account at Citibank in Miami to a correspondent account at Wachovia Bank. The money was later transferred to a German bank account held by a Caribbean football official, according to the indictment.
Wells Fargo & Co., which bought Wachovia Corp., routinely cooperates with the department, said Ancel Martinez, a spokesman.
The U.S. unveiled charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracy against officials from the Federation Internationale de Football Association and sports marketing executives Wednesday following an early morning raid on a luxury Zurich hotel where some of the officials were arrested.
Investigators “exposed complex money laundering schemes” which included tens of millions of dollars in offshore entities in places such as Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands, said Richard Weber, chief of criminal investigation for the Internal Revenue Service.