News 6 November 2014

Serious Fraud Office “monitoring” Blazer situation

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) told the Sports Integrity Initiative that despite media reports suggesting that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had used former FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer to spy on football executives during the London 2012 Olympic Games, no new information has come to light that would allow the UK criminal courts jurisdiction. “There is no information which has so far been brought to the SFO’s attention that shows that the UK criminal courts would accept jurisdiction”, said a spokesperson. “We continue to monitor the situation and to keep the jurisdictional position under review”.

Conservative MP Damian Collins, who has previously called for the SFO to investigate allegations of corruption around the awarding of the hosting rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup to Russia and Qatar respectively, wrote to the SFO on Monday asking them to request access to any evidence relating to Blazer’s activities whilst in London for the Olympics. In a series of articles, the New York Daily News claimed that the FBI threatened Blazer with prosecution for tax fraud unless he cooperated with a plan to use a modified keyring containing a microphone in order to record conversations with football officials, as part of an FBI investigation into corruption in football.

Collins wrote to the SFO in September, asking it to seek access to the report into alleged corruption around the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. FIFA said in October that it couldn’t publish a 350-page report produced by Ethics Committee Chairman Michael J. Garcia in full, as it would be a violation of its Code of Ethics. A statement into the report will be available in ‘mid-November’. You can read more about the reasoning behind this here. Collins told the BBC that by accessing the report, the SFO could assess whether there is information within it that would fall under its jurisdiction. “If FIFA is sitting on evidence relating to acts of bribery and corruption, then it is more than just a football matter”, he told the BBC.

The FBI has refused to comment on the alleged investigation into corruption into football, reported by the New York Daily News. The article included links to a number of documents which detail the financial affairs of former Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) President Blazer.

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