June 4 , 2015

FIFA bribery scandal raises questions about anti-money laundering

Washington, DC-- The recent bribery scandal involving soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, has revealed involvement of U.S. banks in moving alleged bribes through the financial system, raising questions about whether the banks were properly implementing and applying anti-money laundering rules, including customer due diligence on shell companies, and verifying the source of funds coming into the accounts. The corruption allegations, which have resulted in the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, demonstrate the need for stronger regulations and enforcement, the FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition says.

According to one news report on the scandal, only one transfer of $1.2 million out of the $150 million in bribes that were dispersed aroused enough suspicion by a financial institution to halt the transaction. The rest, it would appear, flowed unimpeded through the U.S. financial system.

The Justice Department indictment raises questions about the involvement of U.S. banks in the scandal, and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Eastern New York indicated that the banks would be investigated regarding whether they were aware of the fact they were processing bribe money.

“Given the many rumors about bribery and corruption that had been swirling around FIFA, it is astonishing that it has taken 24 years to bring this case, and it was the U.S. government that stepped up to the task,” says FACT Executive Director Rebecca Wilkins. “The next step for the government is to look at why and how U.S. banks were involved in moving this money, and we urge them to do so.”

“You can’t hide this amount of cash under the bed, so you need a bank willing to take the money,” says Stefanie Ostfeld, Deputy Head of Global Witness’ U.S. office. “This case raises questions about the due diligence carried out by American banks. Until we close the loopholes in our anti-money laundering laws and ensure that they are enforced, corrupt individuals, drug cartels and terrorists will continue to move suspect money through the U.S. financial system.”

“The indictment alleges that shell companies, front companies and offshore bank accounts were used in schemes to move the bribe money into the Defendants’ accounts around the world, and may have been used to buy the real estate identified in the indictment. FinCEN needs to move its proposed rulemaking forward so that U.S. banks are actually required to find out who is behind a shell company, and they should remove the temporary exemption enjoyed by real estate agents that allows them to turn a blind eye to criminals purchasing real estate with the proceeds of their crimes,” commented Heather Lowe, Legal Counsel and Director of Government Affairs at Global Financial Integrity.

"FIFA is just the tip of the iceberg," says Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious anti-poverty organization, Jubilee USA Network. "Corruption and financial secrecy drain nearly $1 trillion from the developing world each year. Transparency is critical in the sports world, and it's critical for fighting poverty."





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