Serious Fraud Office Confirms FIFA Investigation

22nd Dec 2015

Serious_Fraud_OfficeOn 27 October 2015, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), in the United Kingdom, David Green QC, confirmed that his agency is looking into potential money laundering offences in the United Kingdom, in relation to the FIFA corruption investigation.

However, the SFO has not opened a criminal investigation into the matter, to date, for a number of reasons, including a refusal by Swiss authorities to hand over evidence, and a reluctance to interfere with the work carried out by US investigators. Reports are here and here (paywall).

SFO Investigation

On 27 October 2015, Mr Green QC confirmed that the agency is considering potential money laundering offences in the UK in connection with the FIFA corruption scandal. Appearing before the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee, Mr Green stated:

“We are still examining issues around possible money laundering…There are several aspects to it and some new information has come to us quite recently.”

Focusing on a single payment of approximately £301,000, made to the FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, from the Australia 2022 bid committee, which may have been routed through London, Mr Warner stated: “I cannot confirm the assertion that money went through London – it certainly started off in Sydney and appears to have ended up in Trinidad… It could be money-laundering, yes. Whether the money came through London is important.”

Mr Green QC added: “There are outstanding matters which touch upon money laundering. There are a number of matters we are still looking at and digging into.”

In the course of the questioning, Mr Green QC further revealed:

  • A request to Swiss prosecutors to disclose the report by Michael Garcia on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process (which was never published in full) was rejected.
  • A request to the US Department of Justice to analyse the tapes from undercover meetings between former FIFA Executive Committee member, Chuck Blazer, and other football officials during the 2012 Olympics had been rejected because it related to an ongoing investigation.
  • The Bribery Act 2010 “as things stand” is not available to the SFO to pursue proceedings against FIFA; therefore Swiss and US investigations should proceed unhindered.

Possible Extradition Consequences of a UK Investigation

Mr Warner is currently residing in Trinidad, and faces extradition to the US, after the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, Faris Al Rawi, signed Authority to Proceed (‘ATP’) documents on 21 September 2015.

Were the SFO to uncover alleged wrongdoing by Mr Warner, it would remain open to prosecutors and the Home Office to decide whether to seek his extradition to the UK, to face possible charges in this country.

This development highlights the increasingly complex mosaic of extradition requests for those footballing officials embroiled in the FIFA scandal, who are wanted to face corruption allegations in the US, and in other jurisdictions across the world.

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) has already faced the situation where it has had to prioritise multiple extradition requests, in the case of Julio Rocha (for a summary, see the end section of this blog).

In summary, in that case, the Swiss FOJ held that requests for extradition from the US and Nicaragua, respectively, would both be approved. However, the FOJ gave priority to the US extradition request, noting that – although the offences listed in both requests were broadly the same – US authorities had been conducting a more wide-ranging criminal investigation than in Nicaragua and a number of individuals had already been extradited to the US. Further, most of the evidence and witnesses are also located in the US.

Between some countries, the rules and principles concerning multiple extradition requests are set out in bilateral treaties, which prescribe those factors that are to be taken into account. Indeed, with respect to Mr Warner, Article 12 of the Extradition Treaty between the US and Trinidad and Tobago states:

“If the Requested State receives from the other Contracting State and from any other State or States for the extradition of the same person, either for the same offence or for different offences, the executive authority of the Requested State shall determine to which State it will surrender the person. In making its decision, the Requested State shall consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to:

(a) whether the requests were made pursuant to treaty;

(b) the place where each offence was committed;

(c) the respective interests of the Requesting States;

(d) the gravity of the offences;

(e) the nationality of the victim;

(f) the possibility of further extradition between the Requesting States; and

(g) the chronological order in which the requests were received from the Requesting States.”

A similar provision can be found in Article 15 of the 2003 Extradition Treaty, in force between the UK and the US.

Whether regard is had to the provision in the Treaty between the US and Trinidad and Tobago depends, of course, on what progress is made in extradition proceedings against Mr Warner in Trinidad, and whether the authorities make an outgoing request for his extradition, to either Trinidad or the US, to face allegations in the UK.

Previous FIFA blogs are here.

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Jasvinder Nakhwal
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Nick Vamos
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