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More arrests expected in Fifa corruption probe

Published 14/09/2015

Much of Fifa's financial dealings during Sepp Blatter's 17-year presidency seem open to investigation
Much of Fifa's financial dealings during Sepp Blatter's 17-year presidency seem open to investigation

Fifa and its embattled president Sepp Blatter face more pressure as the US attorney general warned of new indictments in a widening investigation of corruption in international football.

"We do anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities," Loretta Lynch said in Zurich, citing unspecified new evidence gathered since the May 27 arrests of seven people at a luxury hotel in Fifa's home city.

Ms Lynch spoke at a news conference alongside her Swiss counterpart Michael Lauber, whose separate investigation of money laundering appears equally threatening to Fifa and its soon-departing president.

Swiss federal agencies have seized properties in the Swiss Alps and more evidence during house searches in western Switzerland, said Mr Lauber, who last updated media on his case in June.

"Investment in real estate can be used for the purpose of money laundering," said Mr Lauber, whose case seems to lead beyond its original focus of Fifa's criminal complaint about the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

A total of 121 bank accounts have been reported as suspicious by a Swiss financial intelligence unit to Mr Lauber's team of prosecutors, he said.

The two lawyers shared a stage on the sidelines of an annual conference of federal prosecutors, almost four months after the scale of their investigations was made public.

Two days before the Fifa presidential election on May 29, the US Department of Justice indicted 14 football and marketing officials in a 150 million dollar (£97 million) bribery and racketeering conspiracy and unsealed six guilty pleas, including Chuck Blazer. The long-time member of Fifa's executive committee was a key co-operating witness for federal investigators in Brooklyn where Ms Lynch was formerly chief prosecutor.

Ms Lynch did not comment on whether Blatter is targeted in her case, or if he faces arrest by travelling to a country which has an extradition treaty with the US.

"I can't give you any information about Mr Blatter's travel plans," said Ms Lynch, smiling and drawing laughs from a room packed with around 150 journalists in a Zurich hotel.

The Swiss case could spread beyond the World Cup bids won by Russia and Qatar as prosecutors sift through massive amounts of data and documents seized from Fifa headquarters in May and June.

Much of Fifa's financial dealings during Blatter's 17-year presidency now seem open to investigation.

"We have a lot of facts at the moment out of house searches and out of the documents we received," said Mr Lauber, when asked about an allegation that Blatter knowingly undersold World Cup television rights for the Caribbean in exchange for political support.

Earlier, former Fifa anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth, a Swiss professor of criminal law, said Blatter should face embezzlement charges for signing the 2005 deal. Then-Fifa vice president Jack Warner profited by millions of dollars from sub-licensing rights to the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.

Warner is among the 14 men indicted in May. He is fighting extradition to the US from his native Trinidad.

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