US, Swiss federal prosecutors to give update on FIFA cases
GENEVA (AP) — The American prosecutor who launched the bribery case that rocked FIFA is stepping on Sepp Blatter’s home turf.
On Sept. 14 in Zurich, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will join her counterpart from Switzerland, Michael Lauber, for a news conference about their separate investigations of corruption in world football.
The joint conference will explain the “status of the two criminal proceedings,” Swiss officials said in a statement on Tuesday. Though the cases are separate, the officials involved are cooperating in their investigations.
Lynch, who helped kick off the FIFA case several years ago as a U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, is scheduled to attend an annual conference of federal prosecutors which is hosted this year by Lauber’s department.
Across town, Blatter is working through the last months of his 18-year presidential spell after citing pressure on FIFA from the criminal cases as a reason to go early.
Before deciding on June 2 to leave office, Blatter criticized Lynch — who was sworn into office in April — for conducting her case in Zurich.
“Listen, with all the respect to the judicial system of the U.S. with a new minister of justice,” Blatter said in May, “the Americans, if they have a financial crime that regards American citizens then they must arrest these people there and not in Zurich when we have a congress.”
The American case alleges bribery, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, including in the award of hosting rights for the 2010 World Cup to South Africa and broadcasting rights for World Cup qualifying matches and other international competitions.
FIFA was rocked on May 27 when Swiss federal police arrested seven officials, including FIFA’s vice presidents for the North and South American regions, in a dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich at the request of U.S. authorities.
They were among 14 football and marketing officials named in a 47-count U.S. indictment unsealed that day. Former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, a Cayman Islands banker, accepted extradition to the U.S. and six others remain in Zurich-area prisons fighting the process.
Four more men — including Chuck Blazer, the most senior American in world football for 16 years until 2013 — had their guilty pleas unsealed on May 27.
“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves,” Lynch said at a news conference in New York hours after the arrests.
Two days later, Blatter targeted Lynch in his first media interview after winning re-election.
“I was shocked by what she said,” Blatter told French-language Swiss broadcaster RTS. “As a president I would never make a statement about another organization without knowing.”
Lynch is personally close to the FIFA case, which she helped start when U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Her name is on November 2013 court documents detailing Blazer’s plea agreement. Blazer admitted receiving payments in a $10 million bribe scheme to support South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
The plot linked Blazer and two other then-FIFA executive committee members in receiving cash which South African officials asked FIFA to transfer through the governing body’s accounts in 2008.
The Swiss case focuses on possible money laundering during the bidding contests for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar, respectively.
FIFA headquarters were raided on May 27 and massive amounts of data later seized for the Swiss case, which is expected to follow leads to other areas of FIFA finance and business deals involving senior football officials.
Blatter is not implicated in either case though is a potential target in both, Lauber and American officials have previously confirmed.
Lynch and Lauber will also share a stage earlier on Sept. 14, at a closed-door session of the four-day International Association of Prosecutors event.
Lauber will host a discussion with Lynch and federal prosecutors from Britain, France and Russia titled “International Cooperation (white collar crime, money laundering and corruption).”
Their news conference will take place at the same Renaissance Zurich Tower hotel which in May hosted delegates from the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL football bodies for the Americas whose reputations have been shredded by Lynch’s case.