Fifa reform campaigners call on SFO to ‘follow the money’ more urgently

Publikováno: 18. září 2015

Fifa reform campaigners have called on the British authorities to do more to “follow the money” and help United States and Swiss investigators tackle corruption at world football’s governing body. Appearing before a parliamentary select committee inquiry into the fallout from the Fifa corruption crisis, Deborah Unger of Transparency International urged the Serious Fraud Office and other agencies to dig deeper.

FIFA logo

FIFA logo | source: fifa.com

“They could use the follow-the-money tools that are already here. Questions do have to be asked. Has any money been spent in the UK on luxury goods and services, property for example?” Unger said. “It is very hard to go after people directly without knowing if the money has come through the UK. But you can start asking the questions.”

In the wake of the arrests and charges that followed dawn raids in Zurich in May and decades of allegations of bribery and corruption at Fifa, the SFO said it would examine whether it had a role to play. But Paul Farrelly, one of the MPs on the culture, media and sport select committee, said the SFO had not asked “a single question of the FA”.

Damian Collins, a Tory MP on the committee who has been heavily involved in the New Fifa Now campaign to reform world football, said a payment made by the Australian 2022 bid team to Jack Warner, the disgraced former president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, was routed via the UK and should be investigated by the SFO.

The Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, has called on other jurisdictions to do more to help its investigation into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. It has identified 121 suspicious bank transactions, seized data and confiscated properties in the Swiss Alps under suspicion of money-laundering since its investigation began in May.

“We are also looking for means to accelerate the procedure; in this context an additional challenge might be seen in the fact some of the information of interest to our criminal proceedings is under seal,” Lauber said. “It would be helpful if parties involved would cooperate more substantially.”

The SFO has said it has “actively been assessing material in relation to this matter and has made plain it stands ready to assist continuing international criminal investigations.”

The witnesses, also including Jaimie Fuller of New Fifa Now and the former Australia 2022 bid executive turned whistleblower Bonita Mersiades, called for independent reform of Fifa and cast doubt on the internal process being led by former International Olympic Committee executive François Carrard. Earlier this week Domenico Scala, the head of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee, made his own reform proposals to feed into the process.

“The reform process needs to be top to bottom. They are circling the wagons. They don’t want that kind of reform because they don’t want the scrutiny it will bring to the past,” Unger said. “We’ve called it a crisis of corruption and we’ll stand by that. I doubt the latest reform proposals from Scala will get very far.”

In the context of a discussion around the questions still to be answered by the FA, Fuller raised the historic case of two Trinidad & Tobago players with links to Warner who were granted work permits by the Home Office in 2001.

Fuller, the founder of sportswear brand Skins, said they had “applied for work permits, those work permits were declined, they lost the appeal, they magically got a work permit”.

It was reported in 2001 that the former sports minister Kate Hoey had claimed Carlos Edwards and Hector Sam, two Wrexham players with links to Warner, had been granted work permits in the hope of winning Warner’s support. The Home Office said at the time: “If new evidence comes to light and they meet the criteria, there’s nothing untoward about that.”