Fifa probe 'not near half-time'

Swiss authorities have seized properties and data, separate probe in US expected to widen

ZURICH • Apartments in the Alps are among the assets seized in an investigation into alleged corruption at Fifa, Switzerland's attorney general said on Monday, warning that the inquiry had not reached "half-time" yet.

The country began its probe into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups in May. Then, the United States justice department unsealed charges against 14 people accused of massive graft over decades within world football.

Swiss attorney-general Michael Lauber, speaking alongside his US counterpart Loretta Lynch, said his wide-ranging investigation was nowhere near complete.

"Financial assets have been seized, including real estate in the Swiss Alps," Lauber said in Zurich.


We anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities. We are following the evidence where it leads.

LORETTA LYNCH, United States attorney-general

He added that investigators had also searched homes, confiscated masses of electronic data and scrutinised 121 bank accounts.

"Clearly, we are not even near the half-time break," he said.

Swiss authorities have not yet named any individual who could be subject to criminal charges.

Fifa's ethics chief Dominic Scala said in June that it was possible that Russia and Qatar - awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively - could be stripped of their hosting rights if there was clear evidence that bribes were paid in the bidding process.

The US case - which is separate from the Swiss investigation - has so far led to charges against nine former Fifa officials and five sports marketing executives.

When Lynch announced the indictments in May, she said she expected the case to widen.

On Monday, she made clear that more charges were expected.

"We anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities," Lynch said. She declined to discuss whether any charges were imminent against Fifa's embattled president Sepp Blatter.

The 79-year-old has announced that he will step down when his successor is chosen at a special election in February. But he has fiercely denied any wrongdoing, blaming all impropriety under his watch on "rogue" individuals.

Lynch has said her office uncovered evidence of corruption dating back to 1991.

Yesterday, Blatter attracted more flak when former Argentina superstar Diego Maradona blasted him and his European counterpart Michel Platini, who is bidding to succeed the Swiss, as two of a kind.

"I'm outside all that because someone called Blatter closed all doors on me," Maradona told Naples television station PiuEnne.

"Blatter did a lot of harm to football and with Platini it's a farce. They pretend to be separated, one at Fifa and the other at Uefa, while in fact they were always side by side. The only thing Blatter could teach Platini was how to steal."

Maradona, 54, added that he had an agreement with Prince Ali of Jordan, another candidate for the Fifa presidency on Feb 26. "If he should win the election, I will be at his side as vice-president."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'Fifa probe 'not near half-time''. Print Edition | Subscribe