Thursday

23rd May 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  2. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal
  3. UK sacked defence secretary backs Johnson for leader
  4. Dutch voter turnout so far slightly down on 2014
  5. Report: Hungary's Fidesz 'bought' Belgian official
  6. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  7. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  8. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Polling booths open in UK's limbo EU election
  2. Dutch PM puts EU exit on agenda with election gamble
  3. EU development aid used to put European police in Senegal
  4. EU should stop an insane US-Iran war
  5. EU faces moment of truth at midnight on Sunday
  6. Dutch MPs: EU sanctions should bear Magnitsky name
  7. Far-right hate speech flooded Facebook ahead of EU vote
  8. Key details on how Europeans will vote

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us