UK banks named in football bribery scandal: Barclays and HSBC ‘handled millions in suspect transactions’
■ Barclays and HSBC have been named in legal papers filed in the US
■ Documents have also named London-based Standard Chartered Bank
■ Allegedly moved suspect transactions linked to Fifa through their accounts
■ Britain’s Serious Fraud Office is understood to be monitoring situation
Two of Britain’s biggest High Street banks have been dragged into the bribery and corruption scandal engulfing football’s world governing body.
Barclays and HSBC have been named in legal papers filed by the US Department of Justice after millions of dollars in suspect transactions linked to Fifa were allegedly moved through their accounts.
On Wednesday the Americans charged 14 officials following a four-year FBI probe into bribes to obtain lucrative marketing rights to football tournaments.
The corruption allegations were set out in a 160-page dossier. The documents also name London-based Standard Chartered Bank, which focuses largely on developing countries.
All three British-based banks are said to have handled suspicious transactions linked either to Fifa or its officials and connected companies.
Britain’s Serious Fraud Office is understood to be monitoring the situation and ready to help the US authorities.
It has also launched a review into British firms with links to Fifa. These could include banks, sponsors and individuals.
If there is any evidence of criminality, the SFO will launch a full investigation.
A source said: ‘The SFO is looking to see whether any of the alleged corruption took place on British soil, by any UK firms or individuals.’
In the Commons, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale backed SFO action. ‘I have no doubt they will be looking closely to see if any laws have been broken in this country,’ he said. In other developments:
■ Fifa’s controversial chief Sepp Blatter faced losing his decades-long presidency in a knife-edge vote later today,
■ Visa, Fifa’s biggest sponsor, threatened to end its £30million-a-year deal unless ‘swift’ action was taken,
■ David Cameron joined growing calls for Mr Blatter to give up his tarnished presidency,
■ The European football association, Uefa, threatened a World Cup boycott if Mr Blatter remained in power.
One of the transactions said to involve the British-based banks and linked either to Fifa or its officials and connected companies was the transfer of more than £320,000 to the account of a luxury yacht manufacturer in London, while another was a £130,000 payment which was switched through Barclays’ New York branch to an account in the Cayman Islands tax haven.
If the banks are implicated in any corruption, or if they failed to carry out stringent checks, it will bring further shame on Britain’s financial service industry – and potentially heavy fines.
Documents also show that international accountancy firm KPMG is at the heart of the scandal.
It faces tough questions over why it has been giving Fifa’s accounts a clean bill of health for years despite widespread corruption allegations hanging over the organisation.
PRAISE FOR THE FREE PRESS
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale praised the role of investigative journalists in exposing the corruption scandal at Fifa.
He cited the investigation into Fifa by the Sunday Times in a statement in the House of Commons yesterday.
Mr Whittingdale said: ‘I would like to pay tribute to the Insight team of the Sunday Times, without whose investigations many of these allegations may never have come to light.’
The Sunday Times has led the charge on exposing corruption within Fifa, analysing hundreds of millions of documents leaked to the newspaper by a whistleblower to discover deeply worrying details about the Qatari bid for the 2022 World Cup.
MPs also praised the BBC Panorama programme for its Fifa investigations.
A KPMG spokesman said: ‘As Fifa’s statutory auditor, we are bound by professional confidentiality and have to refrain from any comment.’
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that those who conspired with the 14 who have been charged include ‘businessmen, bankers and other trusted intermediaries who laundered illicit payments’.
The 14 are understood to include nine current and former Fifa officials and five sports marketing officials.
Laundering is where cash received from bribes is made to look legitimate by being pumped through reputable lenders. Banks are supposed to go through a series of checks when handling large sums, to make sure they are not dealing with ‘dirty’ money.
The Department of Justice has listed a string of suspicious transactions in documents it released this week.
Many relate to Traffic, a sports marketing company belonging to Aaron Davidson, who is one of the accused.
Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered declined to comment.