Barclays, Standard Chartered investigating FIFA payments
Barclays has launched an internal review into whether its accounts were used for corrupt payments by FIFA officials, a banking source told AFP on Sunday. Standard Chartered has also said it was investigating payments cited in the US indictment.
UK-headquartered Barclays, Standard Chartered and HSBC were among more than a dozen banks referred to in a US indictment last week that outlined how tens of millions of dollars linked to football’s world governing body FIFA were hidden in offshore accounts.
The banks themselves were not accused of any wrongdoing.
US authorities have so far indicted 14 people with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, including seven FIFA officials who were arrested on Wednesday in Zurich on charges of involvement in $150 million in bribes for sports media contracts.
The source would not give any further details and a Barclays spokesman declined to comment. HSBC has also so far declined to comment.
Standard Chartered issued a statement on Friday also saying that it was investigating the payments cited in the indictment. “We are aware that two payments cleared by Standard Chartered are mentioned in the indictment. We are looking into those payments,” it said.
Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said on Friday that it “continues actively to assess material in its possession and has made plain that it stands ready to assist ongoing international criminal investigations”.
A senior US legal official has said more indictments are likely in the case.
Tens of millions of dollars were allegedly hidden in offshore accounts in Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, said Richard Weber, chief of the US tax agency’s criminal investigation division.
The US Justice Department indictment said that a payment of $1.2 million to official Costas Takkas had been wired to an unspecified bank account at HSBC in Hong Kong. Takkas is a British citizen and a former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association.
Two separate payments totalling $1 million were then allegedly wired from the Hong Kong account to a Standard Chartered bank account in New York and then to the Cayman Islands.
Financial regulators in Hong Kong have said they are “monitoring” what the indictment would mean for the banks.
“The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is aware of this case and is monitoring the implication for banks,” the HKMA said in a statement on Thursday.
Banks are required to conduct checks to ensure clients aren’t using their accounts for criminal activities. They are also responsible for having some idea of the source of their clients’ funds and the legitimacy of their activities, according to former FBI agent Dennis Lormel.
“The most telling thing is whether the banks were complicit with wittingly laundering money for some of these officials,” said Lormel, chapter chair of the Association of Anti-Money Laundering Specialists in Washington, DC.
“More likely, you’re going to find the banks were unwitting participants.”