Banks wary of doing FIFA business in wake of bribery scandal

Wed Jun 3, 2015 12:28pm EDT
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By Brett Wolf and Douwe Miedema

ST. LOUIS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The disclosure that some of the world's largest banks had been used as a conduit for bribes allegedly paid to soccer officials has prompted the banks to scrutinize their ties with FIFA, and could make it more difficult for the sport's powerful governing body to move money around the world.

    Major U.S. and European banks say they are stepping up scrutiny of FIFA-related accounts, and are wary in particular of ties to two regional member organizations that feature prominently in the U.S. Department of Justice's indictment.

    U.S. authorities last week charged nine current or former FIFA officials and five sports industry executives in a $150 million bribery scheme, accusing them of running a "criminal enterprise" that lasted for 24 years and relied heavily on the U.S. financial system. As the scandal continued to worsen, Sepp Blatter, FIFA's long-serving president, said on Tuesday he was quitting.

    Of the nine soccer officials, seven were former or current officials at either CONCACAF, the North-American, Central American and Caribbean soccer association, or at CONMEBOL, the South American regional soccer organization.

A top compliance official at one of the banks named in the court documents said it would close any accounts of accused parties and closely review other FIFA-related accounts, especially those associated with CONCACAF. More scrutiny will now also be given to other sporting entities, such as the U.S. Olympic Committee, the official added.

    U.S. authorities have not accused FIFA itself of wrongdoing, though a person familiar with the matter said on Monday that U.S. prosecutors believe that FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke was involved in a $10 million bank transaction that is under investigation. FIFA and Valcke have denied this was the case.

And late on Tuesday, a source told Reuters that Blatter himself is being investigated by U.S. prosecutors and the FBI.

When asked if FIFA is having any trouble getting banking services, spokeswoman Delia Fischer said no. A spokesman for CONMEBOL, Nestor Benitez, declined to comment. A CONCACAF spokesman also had no comment.   Continued...

Share prices are seen on an electronic display at the Doha Stock Exchange in Doha, Qatar June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon