Swiss examine Fifa handouts

LONDON - Swiss authorities are examining development grants made by Fifa around the world, as part of their investigation into football's world governing body and its awarding of World Cup hosting rights to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

In particular, the investigators are looking at how the money was spent and whether there is any falsification of documents, a source familiar with the probe said.

The grants go mainly to national football associations and are often earmarked for new facilities or training programmes.

The Swiss investigation is running alongside and in cooperation with a United States probe that led to the criminal indictment last month of nine current and ex-Fifa officials, as well as five executives in sports marketing and broadcasting, on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.

Information technology specialists from Switzerland's federal police agency, as well as prosecutors and financial experts, are poring over masses of evidence collected by the office of Switzerland's attorney general, the source said.

The evidence includes voluminous internal records, most in digitised form, seized from the offices of Fifa president Sepp Blatter, general secretary Jerome Valcke and finance and administrative chief Markus Kattner.

Between 1999 and 2014, Fifa spent US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) on development grants and has committed to spend another US$900 million between this year and 2018.

Often, tiny island territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean have received more money under some programmes than the biggest football-playing countries such as Germany and England.

This has led to allegations from some officials that Blatter had supported these minnows so that they would be more likely to vote for him as president.

Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber announced last month that his office was conducting an investigation into whether there was corruption in Fifa's awarding of both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights.

Both Russia and Qatar have vehemently denied there was anything irregular in their selection, in the face of competition from rival bidders such as England and the US.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'Swiss examine Fifa handouts'. Print Edition | Subscribe