ZURICH: No end is in sight to Swiss investigations into possible money-laundering through local bank accounts and which may be connected to the awarding of host rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
This cautionary note was delivered today by attorney-general Michael Lauber in delivering a formal public update on the process sparked by its receipt from FIFA last November of the inquiry report drawn up by the then independent ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia.
At the time the Swiss justice authorities indicated they were prepared to take eventual action against ‘persons or persons unknown’ and that the process would involve cooperation with authorites in foreign jurisdictions.
Today Lauber said his team were examining “nine terabytes” of data provided from FIFA’s own Zurich headquarters and Swiss banks.
Lauder added: “I am well aware of the enormous public interest in our investigation. Equally enormous is the public interest in an independent criminal procedure.
“Our investigation is of great complexity and quite substantial. To give you an example: The attorney-general’s office has seized around nine terabytes of data. So far, our investigative team has obtained evidence concerning 104 banking relations; be aware that every banking relation represents several bank accounts.”
Lauber confirmed interviews would be undertaken with “all relevant people” who would include FIFA president Sepp Blatter and secretary-general Jerome Valcke. Both held those posts in December 2010 at the time of the controversial World Cup hosting vote.
Confirmation that the Swiss investigation was ongoing came on the same day that officers arrested seven men, including two FIFA vice-presidents, two days before FIFA Congress last month. All are awaiting hearings into extradition applications from the United States Justice Department.
Lauber added: “For the time being FIFA is the injured party . . . They filed the report and this is the actual status as we conduct investigations against unknown persons.
“We didn’t start the investigation against FIFA. We started the investigations based on that [Garcia] report and based on a mutual legal assistance request from the US.
“We are faced with a complex investigation with many international implications. The prosecution is ongoing and will take time,” he said. “It would not be professional to communicate at this moment a detailed timetable. The world of football needs to be patient. By its nature, this investigation will take more than the legendary 90 minutes.”
The “huge and complex” investigation could take months if not years to complete.
And also . . .
** FIFA president Sepp Blatter and secretary-general Jerome Valcke have reportedly hired highly respected United States lawyers to represent them in any legal actions.
** Ricardo Teixeira, disgraced ex-CBF president, insisted that he had received nothing from Qatar – not even a reported gift of a gold watch – to vote for the Gulf state in the 2022 World Cup host ballot.
** Frédéric Auburtin, director of the risible United Passions film about FIFA’s history, has described it as “a disaster” and that he regretted his involvement.
** A financial audit on the website of the Basel Institute of Governance has shown that the 10 members of FIFA’s independent reform committee received more than $80,000 each for their work in 2012-2013.