Swiss to increase oversight of FIFA, other sports bodies

Fri Dec 5, 2014 9:56am EST
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By Katharina Bart

ZURICH (Reuters) - A privileged existence in Switzerland for some of the largest sports organizations in the world and their top executives including Sepp Blatter, president of world soccer’s governing body FIFA, may be coming to an end.

Responding to years of corruption allegations, lawmakers are poised to pass a set of laws known as "Lex FIFA" that would tighten oversight of the approximately 60 sporting bodies based in Switzerland.

The first of the new laws, which is expected to be approved by parliament next Friday, would treat Blatter and other top executives such as International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach as "politically exposed persons" - a term justice officials use to define those in positions that could be abused to launder money.

This would by necessity increase financial scrutiny of sports officials because Switzerland's banks are legally required to ensure funds are not of suspicious origin before they accept them.

The campaign to increase oversight of major sports bodies has been led since 2010 by lawmaker Roland Buechel, who says he is concerned that negative headlines around these organizations are tarnishing Switzerland's image.

The latest scandal involves allegations of corruption - denied by those concerned - in the bidding process for the right to host the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

FIFA is based in a $250 million mostly underground headquarters in Zurich atop what is known locally as "dividend hill" – so called because residents of the exclusive suburb overlooking Lake Zurich are reputed to be sufficiently wealthy to live solely off annual payouts from stocks and bonds.

Since 2010, eight members of FIFA's decision-making Executive Committee have been banned for various lengths of time by FIFA's ethics committee for corruption, or have resigned while under investigation.   Continued...

The logo of soccer's international governing body FIFA is seen on its headquarters in Zurich October 3, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files