10th November 2020

Swiss bank pays $80m to settle FIFA case

Swiss bank Julius Bär has paid US$79.7 million to enter a three year deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ), after Swiss authorities found the bank failed to comply with anti-money laundering provisions in relation to transactions involving FIFA. These ‘transactions’ involved the facilitation of bribes between TV marketing executives and FIFA officials to secure the TV rights to tournaments, including the FIFA World Cup.

In a statement, the Swiss bank said that it had been cooperating with the DoJ since 2015 as part of its investigations into allegations of money laundering and corruption involving FIFA officials. In February, Switzerland’s financial regulatory authority FINMA announced that the bank had failed to comply with anti-money laundering provisions from 2009 until 2018. This resulted in enforcement proceedings that are currently being implemented by the bank.

FINMA appointed an agent to investigate in 2017 after Jorge Luis Arzuaga, a former Managing Director at the bank, pleaded guilty to facilitating over £$25 million in bribes between marketing executives and football officials between 2010 and 2015. Arzuaga admitted arranging payments from Alejandro Burzaco of marketing company Torneos y Competencias (TyC) to the foamier President of the Argentina football association (AFA) and former FIFA Vice President, the late Julio Grondona. Burzaco pleaded guilty to bribery charges in 2015 and in 2017, gave evidence that over $15 million in bribes was paid Grondona to secure TV rights to the 2026 and 2030 World Cups. 

Julius Bär was also specifically named on page 145 of the DoJ’s original November 2015 Indictment (PDF below), which resulted in the arrest of a number of FIFA officials at the Baur au Lac hotel in Switzerland. The bank was named as being involved in a $5 million wire transfer on 17 June 2013, and a $1.67 million wire transfer on 11 September 2013 (see right).

Both payments involved FPT Sports, a Torneos y Competencias (TyC) affiliate company. In 2016, TyC entered a $112.8 million four year deferred prosecution agreement with the DoJ, admitting paying ‘tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to a high-ranking FIFA official to secure his support for, among other things, the acquisition of rights to broadcast the 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 editions of the FIFA World Cup’.

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