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Credit Suisse probed by US, Switzerland in FIFA case

Authorities investigating whether financial institutions allowed the processing of suspicious transactions.

US and Swiss authorities are investigating Credit Suisse Group’s relationships with FIFA officials named in a US criminal indictment, the lender said, making it the first global bank to disclose that it is being questioned in the corruption probe that has rocked soccer’s governing body.

Authorities have said they are investigating whether financial institutions allowed the processing of suspicious or otherwise improper transactions or failed to observe anti-money laundering laws in their dealings with FIFA, the bank said on Friday in its financial report for the third quarter. Credit Suisse said is cooperating with the authorities.

The banks are an obvious line of inquiry for prosecutors but proving they knew of any wrongdoing would be tougher given that Zurich-based FIFA is an established global body, said Dieter Hein, a financial analyst at Fairesearch GmbH & Co, in Kronberg, Germany.

“If there was money laundering, sure, you have to look at the banks,” Hein said in a telephone interview. “How’s the bank supposed to know this is money laundering, if the money comes from a hitherto reputable organisation?”

The scandal has spread in recent weeks with the Swiss Attorney-General opening criminal proceedings into FIFA President Sepp Blatter over a 2 million-franc ($2 million) payment he made to European soccer chief Michel Platini. Both men have said they did nothing illegal but have been suspended by FIFA for 90 days.

The affair was sparked by the arrest in May of seven soccer officials in Zurich on the eve of FIFA’s congress at the request of US prosecutors, who indicted the men and seven others on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

Credit Suisse is flagging its role in the expanding FIFA investigations less than two years after it pleaded guilty to aiding tax evasion in the US. Several banks, including Julius Baer Group, started internal investigations after the US Justice Department named them in the May indictment.

Standard Chartered, based in London, is looking into two payments it cleared that were mentioned in the FIFA indictment, it said on May 31. HSBC Holdings and Barclays are also studying transactions to ensure proper procedures were followed, the Sunday Times reported in May, citing people it didn’t identify.

No one at the Swiss Attorney General’s office was immediately available to confirm that it was the Swiss government agency leading the investigation into the Credit Suisse client relationships.

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber said in June that banks had announced 53 suspicious banking relations under anti-money laundering rules at lenders located in Switzerland. Prosecutors also learned separately of 104 banking relations and seized data for the investigation, Lauber said at the time.

Serge Steiner, a spokesman for UBS Group, declined to comment on whether investigators have questioned any dealings it might have had with FIFA. UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank which is also based in Zurich, reports earnings on November 3.

©2015 Bloomberg News


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