Wednesday

27th Oct 2021

Fifa scandal spotlights Russia

  • Russian football fans (Photo: Oleg N)

Campaigners for tougher sanctions on Russia are saying it should lose the 2018 football World Cup if US or Swiss sleuths uncover corruption in its bid.

Bill Browder, a British businessman who has long fought for EU and US sanctions on tainted Russian officials, told EUobserver on Thursday (18 May) that: “Given the astronomical level of corruption of the Putin regime, it's hard to imagine the Russians didn't bribe anyone who would take their money at Fifa”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“If corruption is proven, the World Cup should be taken away from Russia in 2018 and assigned to a new country. If that doesn't happen, the credibility of Fifa will be tarnished beyond repair”.

His comments come after the US Department of Justice, on Wednesday, indicted nine officials at the Swiss-based world football body.

Its allegations, of “racketeering” worth $150 million over two decades, relate to Fifa awards of marketing contracts.

The same day, the Swiss attorney general said it seized Fifa documents “on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 [Russia] and 2022 [Qatar] football World Cups”.

The two probes are separate, but the US expects to uncover wider criminality.

“Let me be clear: This indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation”, the acting US attorney, Kelly T. Currie, said.

Switzerland noted: “Swiss and US law enforcement authorities are not conducting joint investigations, but are co-ordinating their respective criminal proceedings”.

The idea of stopping the Russian World Cup already came up over its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine's ambassador to the EU has called for it at almost every EU foreign ministers' meeting in the past year.

An EU options paper on Russia sanctions, drafted last September and seen by EUobserver, also says: “Thought could be given to taking co-ordinated action … to recommend suspension of Russian participation in high profile international cultural, economic, or sports events (Formula 1 races, Uefa football competitions, 2018 World Cup, etc.)”.

For its part, the Kremlin reacted with alarm on Thursday.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin said nothing on the Swiss probe, but he accused the US of “sordid ambitions” in trying to “illegally … persecute people” outside its jurisdiction.

"They, the [Fifa] officials, are not citizens of the United States and if some kind of violation did take place, it was not on US territory and the United States has nothing to do with it”.

Putin’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, told the Ria Novosti news agency: "There is no risk of losing the World Cup”.

Gazprom, Russia's top energy firm, said its Fifa marketing contract “is not affected by the situation”.

The Swiss probe comes after Russia’s handling of the Sochi winter Olympics attracted opprobrium.

The 2014 games saw $30 billion of Russian taxpayers’ money doled out to Putin-linked oligarchs.

The Browder affair involved embezzlement of $240 million of tax income and the killing of his auditor, Sergei Magnitsky.

Documents show money was laundered in Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Switzerland.

The Swiss authorities, in 2013, froze bank accounts linked to the case.

Hockey-loving EU states oppose Belarus championship ban

The EU is to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on another 15-or-so Belarusian officials. But harsher measures, such as economic sanctions or blocking the 2014 hockey finals in Minsk, are not on the table for now.

News in Brief

  1. US to add last three EU states to visa-waiver list
  2. German ministry gives thumbs up to Russian pipeline
  3. EU regulator foresees endless battles with Facebook
  4. UK fears three migrants drowned in Channel
  5. Israel joins EU science scheme, despite Palestine clause
  6. Upcoming flu season 'could be severe', EU agency warns
  7. Ukraine wins Dutch case on Crimea gold
  8. Most Poles want Warsaw to back down in EU dispute

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Environment ministers continue dogfight on energy price hike
  2. Most lawmakers unhappy with lead MEP's asylum bill
  3. More transparency on EU media owners planned for 2022
  4. Europe's deadly border policies
  5. 'Brussels So White' needs action, not magical thinking
  6. How to break the political deadlock on migration
  7. Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action
  8. Belarus exiles in EU fear regime-linked murderers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us