Exclusive: Swiss, U.S. probes into FIFA unlikely to disrupt 2018 Russia World Cup

Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:41am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mark Hosenball

London (Reuters) - American and Swiss criminal investigations into corruption in global soccer are unlikely to lead to any threat to Russia retaining the hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup, according to U.S. and European sources familiar with the probes.

Prosecutors in New York and Zurich are examining whether there were irregularities in the awarding of the rights to hold that tournament and the 2022 competition, which went to Qatar. The executive committee of global soccer’s governing body, FIFA, made the decisions in 2010.  

The review of those decisions is part of a wider investigation into FIFA and its affiliates that led to the indictment in May of nine soccer officials, including several people who had served on the FIFA executive committee, and five business executives. They are all charged with various corruption-related offences, including money laundering and wire fraud.

But Swiss officials do not expect their continuing investigation of FIFA will come up with the kind of evidence of wrongdoing that would force the Zurich-based body to reconsider holding the 2018 competition in Russia, the sources said. This is particularly the case given there is now less than three years to go before the tournament, making a switch to another country potentially a logistical nightmare.

The Russian part of the probe has been particularly difficult because the computers used by its World Cup bid committee appear to have been destroyed, which means that many documents have not been available to investigators.

In a statement in response to questions from Reuters, the media office of the Russia 2018 local organizing committee, said that the computers and other equipment had been leased by the bid team, and once the process was over it had returned them to their owner. "The computers became obsolete and were discarded by their owner," it said.

The committee also said that the Russian bid was successful because of "the excellence of the concept" presented. The bid team, it said, had all along insisted on transparency and international best practice in governance. It always operated "in full compliance with the spirit and letter of FIFA's Code of Ethics."

The committee also said that it would cooperate with any relevant authorities.   Continued...

Volunteers take pictures of the 2018 World Cup logo at the Konstantin (Konstantinovsky) Palace in St. Petersburg, July 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov