U.K. fraud office looking at money-laundering in World Cup bids
The Serious Fraud Office is looking at potential money-laundering offenses involving the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the organization’s director has told MPs.
David Green said the SFO had no jurisdiction to go after FIFA under bribery laws but that there may have been potential money-laundering offenses. One of these involved a £270,000 payment (500,000 Australian dollars, USD 414,000) payment by the Australia 2022 bid committee to Jack Warner which may have gone through London.
He also said that the SFO had no powers to act against FIFA officials who had solicited money or favors from England’s 2018 World Cup bid from the evidence obtained so far – but that attempts to procure a copy of the Garcia report into World Cup bidding had been unsuccessful.
Green, giving evidence to the culture, media and sport select committee, said: "We are still examining issues around possible money laundering and I won’t be able to go into detail as new information has come to us quite recently."
Asked about the Australia payment, Green said: "I cannot confirm the assertion that money went through London – it certainly started off in Sydney and appears to have ended up in Trinidad.
"It could be money-laundering yes. Whether the money came through London is important.
"There are outstanding matters which touch upon money-laundering, there are a number of matters we are still looking at and digging in to."
Green said the SFO "cannot touch FIFA with the Bribery Act as things stand" as it became law in July 2011 and most of the World Cup allegations took place before then.
Speaking about an alleged request for £2.5million ($3.8m) from Jack Warner to the former FA and England 2018 chairman Lord Triesman, Green said: "It was rotten conduct I agree with you and if we could we would like to investigate it."
Triesman also alleged that Paraguay’s Nicolas Leoz demanded a knighthood in return for his vote.
Green also pointed out there were criminal investigations taking place into many of the officials involved in the USA and Switzerland.
Attempts to secure a copy of the report by US attorney Michael Garcia have proved fruitless, as has a request to the FBI for a copy of a statement from whistleblower Chuck Blazer that he was wired up during meetings with officials during the London 2012 Olympics.
Green said the SFO still had a team of five going through more than 1,600 documents provided by the Football Association relating to England’s failed 2018 bid.
Conservative MP Damian Collins, a committee member and founder of campaign group NewFifaNow, accused the SFO of "standing on the sidelines in one of the biggest fraudulent stories the world has ever seen".
Green, who took over as director in 2012, replied saying: "No one would be more pleased to open investigations into FIFA than I if I could."
The committee also heard from Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general for England and Wales who sat on FIFA’s independent governance committee to recommend reforms.
Goldsmith said the failure of FIFA to publish the Garcia report was "a farce" and "absurd".
He said: "I was very disappointed with what took place – it was a farce with Mr Garcia producing a report which was never seen and then summarized by the adjudicator [Judge Eckert] and Mr Garcia saying this was not an accurate summary. It was absurd and the world needs to see if there is smoke or fire."
Goldsmith also criticized UEFA and its president Michel Platini – who is currently suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee – for blocking proposals for term limits for senior FIFA officials.
He said: "UEFA were not a terribly good force in relation to the reform process."