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FIFA scandal highlights spirit of international enforcement

January 12th, 2016 - Posted by Sam Hemmant in Anti-Bribery And Corruption

Since the FIFA corruption scandal broke in May last year, investigations have gathered pace. The US Department of Justice has led the way with prosecutors charging over 40 individuals or entities with violations of global anti-bribery and corruption laws.

An interesting hallmark of the scandal is how numerous other countries have announced responsive investigations, leading to charges against several top executives, whose soccer officials have been implicated in the United States' case. Clearly international cooperation and working together to investigate and prosecute corruption offences is becoming more prevalent in a globalised environment.

Case in point, the criminal investigation by the Swiss Attorney General dragged Michel Platini – the former European footballer of the year who was hotly tipped to replace Fifa President Sepp Blatter – into the web of allegations. Investigations centred on a payment of two million Swiss francs made to Platini in 2011. Although Fifa's ethics committee have said there was "not sufficient evidence" to establish the payment was a bribe, they noted that both Blatt and Platini demonstrated an "abusive execution" of their positions. In a further development, the Department of Justice's indictment notes that the corruption was planned in the US, even it if was then carried out elsewhere. The use of US banks to transfer money appears to be key to the investigation.

Extradition moves by the FBI and the US Department of Justice demonstrate that international borders do not provide any protection against bribery and corruption investigations. Companies in the UK are just as liable as US-based firms when it comes to compliance if they enter into joint ventures or acquire foreign businesses and only enhanced due diligence can ensure that risks are minimised.

Why Third-Party Due Diligence & Monitoring Matters?

  • A robust due diligence process, coupled with training and support for staff in compliance procedures, is the only way companies can provide a firm first line of defence against the risk of inadvertent embroilment in corruption, bribery or money laundering accusations.
  • To limit the danger of bribery and corruption, Transparency International recommend that Fifa should follow the principles set out in leading anti-bribery codes, such as their Business Principles for Countering Bribery including:
    "commitment to […] a transparent, published implementation process that is monitored and evaluated."

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