September 14, 2015 / 1:42 PM / 2 years ago

U.S. expects more indictments in soccer probe as Swiss freeze assets

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber arrives with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (R) for a news conference on Swiss criminal proceedings regarding the allocation of the FIFA World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022 at the Conference of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) in Zurich, Switzerland September 14, 2015.Ruben Sprich

ZURICH (Reuters) - U.S. authorities have expanded their investigations into corruption in global soccer and expect to file additional criminal charges, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Monday, deepening the crisis surrounding the sport's governing body.

As part of a separate Swiss investigation, Switzerland's chief prosecutor said his office had seized property and flats in the Swiss Alps in connection with its probe into corruption inside Zurich-based FIFA.

The developments are the latest in the worst crisis in FIFA's 111-year history, which erupted with the arrest of seven senior soccer officials and sports marketing executives over corruption accusations in Zurich in May.

"What I can say is that, separate and apart from the pending indictment, our investigation remains active and ongoing, and has in fact expanded since May," Lynch said at a news conference in Zurich alongside Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber.

"Based upon that cooperation (with Swiss authorities) and new evidence, we do anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities," Lynch said.

She added that the global response to the FIFA scandal had sent a clear message: "You are on the wrong side of progress and do a disservice to the integrity of this wonderful sport."

Lauber said the Swiss investigation had not yet reached the half-way mark and his office had continued to build up its mountain of seized data.

Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has so far gathered around 11 terabytes of electronic data -- up from nine in the OAG's June update -- and 121 different bank accounts have been flagged for suspicious activity.

The OAG had said last month it had received 103 suspicious financial activity reports for its investigation.

SWISS ALPS ASSETS

Lauber also said the OAG had conducted house searches in western Switzerland and seized apartments in the Swiss mountains which could have been used to launder money.

"Where proportional and needed, financial assets have been seized, including real estate, for example flats in the Swiss Alps," Lauber said. "At this point I would like to emphasis that investments in real estate can be misused for the purpose of money laundering."

However, he said he was surprised at an apparent lack of interest from authorities abroad.

"Since we opened our criminal case against unknown persons, almost no foreign jurisdiction has requested mutual legal assistance so far," he said, adding that he did not include the United States in his comment.

"One can only speculate why this is and how it is."

The United States has indicted nine soccer officials and five executives, charging them with racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud for orchestrating multi-million dollar bribery schemes over 24 years.

Separately, Swiss authorities launched an investigation into whether corruption was a factor in Russia and Qatar's successful bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has not been accused of wrongdoing by Swiss or U.S. authorities, but sources have said the FBI is examining his stewardship of the organization.

However, U.S. and European law enforcement have said no criminal charges are currently pending against Blatter, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Lynch would not comment on whether Blatter could become a target of the U.S. investigation and whether he would face arrest if he traveled to the United States or other countries with which the United States has close law enforcement ties.

"I'm not going to comment at this time on individuals who may or may not the subject of the next round of arrests," Lynch said. "So therefore I am not able to give you information about Mr Blatter's travel plans."

Blatter has said he would step down as FIFA president after his successor is decided in an extraordinairy FIFA congress in February.

Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Editing by Michael Shields and Angus MacSwan

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