By Tony Attwood
As you may have seen, I’ve taken quite an interest in the Barcelona child trafficking case since Fifa first ruled on it.
In one of my comments however I suggested that although Fifa had very much done the right thing in the cases against Barcelona and the Spanish FA, we couldn’t be sure it always would as it had been granted immunity from prosecution by the Swiss authorities – where the dictatorial empire is based.
However, I have been corrected in this, for I missed a report last month of a change to the law in Switzerland, which allows the authorities to scrutinise bank accounts held by sporting governing bodies and their leaders.
This brings Fifa into line with the legislation already in place that allows the Swiss to take a peek at the doings of dictators, despots, criminals, tax cheats, oligarchs and perhaps most relevantly money launderers.
It is being reported that the last of these groups (money launderers) has been introduced because of the Fifa bribery and corruption scandals of the last few years, upon which Untold has had a word or two to say from time to time.
Roland Büchel who was influential in seeing through the new law, said that the law applied to executive committee members and employees of all the sports federations that have sought refuge from prosecution for corruption by being based in Switzerland.
The International Olympic Committee and Fifa are the most prominent but there are over 60 such enterprises in Switzerland, all taking advantage of traditional tax-exempt status and virtually zero competition regulation.
Indeed, Fifa’s own anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth made the point that Switzerland had become “pirate’s harbour” and urged the country to clean up its act in order for Fifa and the IOC to clean up theirs. In an urgent attempt to whitewash itself the IOC said that it “fully supports and welcomes this important move by Swiss lawmakers – it is in line with what the IOC already does.”
Switzerland is now able to look at “any strange movement” in bank accounts and financial assets held in Switzerland. Since developments over the bidding for the Russia and Qatar world cups contained nothing but the strange movement of money, we can expect some activity – if the Swiss carry out what the law is designed to do.
And it seems that the Swiss nation has not stopped there. It is soon to launch a new law that will make corruption in sport a criminal offense.
“This will be the really tough one which normally applied to officials of parliament or companies,” said Roland Büchel last December. “It is already in committee, and will be in both chambers of parliament next year.” So 2015 could be quite a fun time as these laws should cover corrupt acts abroad by non-Swiss residents if linked to a sports election being held in Switzerland.
So what this means, according to Mr Büchel is that a future bribery and corruption case in the Caribbean linked to a Fifa presidential vote in Zurich could be prosecuted in Switzerland.
Fifa uses Switzerland to host World Cup votes, so that could be fun – but watch out for them to say that it is only fair that they take the voting around the world. The IOC has already shifted the 2017 vote for Olympic venues to Peru.
Roland Büchel also said that “It is up to Fifa and the IOC to really do their reforms and kick their people out,” he said. “If not, the law will come out much tougher.”
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