CitiBank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, HSBC Holdings PLC and Bank of America Corp. are deeply involved in the bribes, kickbacks and laundering money schemes of some top FIFA officials and sports executives that have been indicted by the US law enforcement. According to a 164-page indictment released by the US Department of Justice, the banks participated in illegal payment schemes and wire transfers in the amount of millions of US dollars.
On Wednesday, US authorities charged nine officials of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and five sports executives, alleging they were part of a scheme in which more than $150m in bribes were paid in exchange for the commercial rights to football tournaments.
The scheme involves top global financial institutions such as JPMorgan and HSBC, both of which have recently paid billions of dollars in fines for illegal trading and manipulation of foreign exchange markets.
UK banks Barklays and Standard Chartered also launch FIFA investigation, says BBC. They have begun internal review into whether they have been used for corrupt payments.
The law enforcement entities have yet to confirm whether the banks were helping FIFA officials and sports executives to receive bribe payments. However, Kelly T. Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, stated in an interview to Financial Times:
“Part of our investigation will look at the conduct of the financial institutions to see whether they were cognizant of the fact they were helping launder these bribe payments.”
Cash for votes
Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice-president and ex-chief of CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) and his two sons, Daryan and Daryll Warner, have been indicted and are being investigated for a series of large deposit made in U.S banks. According to Reuters, the Warner brothers deposited more than US$600,000 in cash “at bank branches in New York, Miami and Las Vegas in the second half of 2011.”
Warner has allegedly been involved with the 24-year bribery scheme beginning in the early 1990s, including that of the 2010 South Africa World Cup. He has been accused of transferring cash from one football account to acquire properties in the U.S and depositing cash to banks in New York, Florida, Switzerland and Brazil.
As the only financial instrument that does not leave any trace of transactions, cash is a favorite medium of payment for money laundering and fraudulent activity. The charge of “untraceability” is often falsely leveled on Bitcoin, which has also recently been associated with crimes, including blackmails and hacking incidents involving well-established financial institutions and online dating platforms. Crimes involving cash, however, far outweigh those involving Bitcoin. The FIFA charges are a case in point.
The investigation of the bribery scheme of FIFA by international law enforcements focuses on big banks and whether they helped sports officials transfer cash between accounts. While Bitcoin has been associated with incidents of user hackings and blackmailing, these are nothing compared to the dollar amounts involved in the secretive fraudulent activity and crimes like the FIFA scheme including global banking businesses.
According to Financial Times, U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch claimed that FIFA officials were bribed to award the 2010 World Cup to South Africa and to execute deals for the sponsorship of the national team of Brazil.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI charged nine FIFA officials and five sports executives with several alleged offenses, including racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies. According to the DOJ, these officials took part in a 24-year scheme to corrupt international football.
The UK Police and the FBI initiated a joint investigation on the corruption of the governing body of football. Swiss prosecutors also “announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 world cups.” Lynch explained:
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”
Sepp Blatter, who on Friday was elected president of FIFA for the fifth term, said: “This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for Fifa as an organisation.” He added that the governing body welcomed the U.S. and Swiss investigations, saying they would “help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.”