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INTERPOL: Integrity in sport - bi-weekly bulletin

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INVESTIGATIONS

Hungary

'Kelong king' held in Hungary over human trafficking probe SINGAPORE - Convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal has been fighting human trafficking allegations in Hungary for almost a year, fearing he will be deported to Singapore, where he is wanted for skipping bail. In a letter in March this year to his sister Malar, which The Straits Times saw, he said the "noose is so tight around my neck". Wilson Raj added in the letter written in English: "My last throw of the dice against deportation will be a letter from Hungarian government department stating 'Wilson Raj cannot be deported back to Singapore'."

The 56-year-old Singaporean, who has been living in Hungary for the last nine years as a prosecution witness for match-fixing trials there, has been held at the Debrecen Police Detention Centre since July 27 last year. The Hungarian police and Office of the Prosecutor-General were contacted within two weeks of his arrest but they said they were not able to provide any information due to data protection laws. ST learnt through sources that the notorious match-fixer was picked up last July 27 in Debrecen, Hungary's second-largest city, outside the home of his wife, Ms Bella Istenes. The 29-year-old Norwegian national had just returned from a trip to Sweden. She was arrested with her husband but is no longer in custody, said those familiar with the investigations.

A source said Wilson Raj, who has been living apart from his wife since 2019, is accused of "assisting several persons to cross the state border for profit". The Singaporean is concerned that if he is convicted of the crime there, he may eventually be deported to Singapore. The court here had found him guilty of various offences, including assaulting an auxiliary police officer, and he was sentenced in 2010 to five years of corrective training. But while out on court bail pending his appeal against the sentence, he fled overseas using a fake Singapore passport.

Under Hungarian law, the penalty for human trafficking carries a jail term of between one and 20 years, depending on the severity of the crime and whether the persons were trafficked for the purpose of sex or labour. The Singapore Police Force (SPF) had tried to extradite him back to Singapore but was thwarted by European laws in 2014. This was after Finnish police arrested him over match-fixing allegations but handed him over to the authorities in Hungary. Finnish police told SPF then that they were "unable to accede" to its request to send the match-fixer back to Singapore as they were "bound by European Union laws to return him to Hungary".

In the letter addressed to his sister, dated March 25, Wilson Raj also said he needed money. "I will need around 75,000 Hungarian money (S$350) to sustain myself in prison... That will last for a whole month." When contacted on Thursday (June 3), Ms Malar denied being in contact with him. "Once he left (Singapore), I didn't keep in touch with him because he was already on the wanted list," said Ms Malar. Ms Istenes was contacted via Facebook but she declined to be interviewed. SPF said the authorities will pursue all legal avenues to secure Wilson Raj's return to Singapore as he is wanted here. Life of crime Ms Bella Istenes and Wilson Raj Perumal were arrested on July 27 last year after she returned from a trip to Sweden.

The Straits Times learnt that she was there to represent Sugar Computing, purportedly an e-sport programming company in Debrecen. The company had inked a deal with Swedish Division 1 football team Nykoping BIS. The deal was signed on July 24 last year between Ms Istenes and representatives of the club. But soon after, it emerged that there were attempts made to influence games played by the club. This was exposed by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Investigators later learnt that the parent company of Sugar Computing is Hong Kong-based firm Living 3D Holdings. The Hong Kong firm was implicated in 2019 in an international investigation into allegations of match-fixing in the Kenyan Premier League. Investigators also established links to Wilson Raj and convicted Singaporean match-fixer Chann Sankaran, an associate of the match-fixing kingpin who lives in Hungary as well. Despite being a fugitive, Wilson Raj had remained visible on social media since 2010. He even published a book he co-wrote, titled Kelong Kings, and appeared in documentaries on CNN in 2016 and Football Underground this year.

As a state witness in Hungary's match-fixing trials, the father of four seemed untouchable. A letter dated March 25, 2021, from fugitive Wilson Raj Perumal to his sister. He describes a sense of regret for his current situation as well as his determination to fight extradition to Singapore. However, with his arrest last July over allegations of human trafficking, Wilson Raj may have just overstayed his welcome in Hungary, where he has been since 2012. While on the run, Wilson Raj was arrested in Finland in February 2011.

A Singaporean had gone to a police station in Rovaniemi, Finland, to alert them about his forged passport. The Finnish authorities learnt that Wilson Raj had bribed 11 foreign football players in the Finnish football league with €470,000 in over 30 matches between 2008 and 2011. Wilson Raj also provided Finnish investigators with information that resulted in major investigations and arrests in Italy, Hungary and Singapore. He also disclosed that he was part of a match-fixing syndicate with ties to Balkan shareholders, allegedly led by Singaporean businessman Dan Tan Seet Eng. He was later sentenced to two years' jail but served only one year. He was handed over to the authorities in Hungary in 2012 to help with match-fixing investigations there. In Singapore, 14 of Wilson Raj's former associates were arrested in 2013 following a match-fixing crackdown.

Wilson Raj himself ended up behind bars again in 2014, when he was arrested a second time in Finland for a border offence and forgery.

ICC

Response to 'Cricket's Match Fixers' broadcast by Al Jazeera on 27 May 2018

The ICC has concluded its investigation into the documentary programme ‘Cricket’s Match Fixers’ broadcast by Al Jazeera on 27 May 2018. No charges will be bought under the ICC Anti-Corruption Code against any of the five Participants to the Code who featured in the programme due to insufficient credible and reliable evidence.

The comprehensive investigation focused on three main areas: the claims made by the programme, the suspects who were part of it and how the programme gathered evidence.

The programme alleged that two matches were fixed: India v England in Chennai in 2016 and India v Australia in Ranchi in 2017. To assess whether the passages of play highlighted in the programme were unusual in any way, the ICC engaged four independent betting and cricketing specialists to analyse the claims. All four concluded that the passages of play identified in the programme as being allegedly fixed were entirely predictable, and therefore implausible as a fix.

All five Participants to the Code who featured in the programme have been interviewed by the ICC Integrity Unit and there is insufficient evidence based on the normal thresholds applied through the Code to lay any charges.

Alex Marshall, ICC General Manager – Integrity said: “We welcome the reporting of alleged corrupt activity within cricket as there is no place for such conduct in our sport, but we also need to be satisfied there is sufficient evidence to sustain charges against Participants. In the case of the claims aired in this programme, there are fundamental weaknesses in each of the areas we have investigated that make the claims unlikely and lacking in credibility, a viewpoint that has been corroborated by four independent experts.

“On the basis of the programme, the Participants to the Code who were filmed appear to have behaved in a questionable manner, however, we have been unable to assess the full context of the conversations that took place beyond what was seen on screen versus what the Participants claim actually happened. This combined with the absence of any other credible evidence means there are insufficient grounds to bring charges under the ICC Anti-Corruption Code “Should any new substantial evidence come to light I will re-examine the case. But at present I am comfortable with the conclusion of the investigation and the thoroughness with which it was undertaken.”

Russia

French Open: Yana Sizikova released from police custody

Russian tennis player Yana Sizikova has been released from police custody a day after she was arrested as part of an investigation into match-fixing at last year's French Open.

The 26-year-old, who is ranked 101st in doubles, was released without being charged. She is "shocked" at the allegations, her lawyer told Russia's Tass news.

The investigation began in October after suspicions of "organised fraud" and "sports corruption" were raised. At the time, a source close to the investigation told the BBC the inquiry was examining several players including Sizikova.

The investigation was announced shortly after Sizikova and the American player Madison Brengle lost to the Romanians Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tigin in the tournament's opening round. Suspicions were reportedly raised after betting companies noticed hundreds of thousands of euros had been wagered on a break of serve in the second set.

Despire Sizikova's release on Friday, the investigation is continuing. "Yana Sizikova is shocked and rejects charges of crimes she has never committed... these accusations harm her reputation," her lawyer Frederic Belo told the Tass news agency, adding that she intends to file a complaint for libel. Mr Belo said he was not sure if Ms Sizikova would be allowed to leave France, explaining that she was "accused of sporting corruption, which is punishable by five years in prison and a 500,000 euro ($608,000; £430,000) fine. "She is also suspected of fraud as part of an organised group. Under this article, she could face up to five years in prison and a fine of 300,000 euros ($365,000; £260,000)," Mr Belo said. On Friday, the Paris prosecutor's office told the Associated Press that Sizikova had been arrested on charges of "sports bribery and organised fraud" but did not provide further details.

She was reportedly arrested as she was coming out of her massage session following her first-round match with new teammate Yekaterina Alexandrova. They lost in straight sets against the Australian pair Storm Sanders and Ajla Tomjanovic. Sizikova's hotel room was also searched, according to the Le Parisien newspaper which first reported her arrest. Last year was the first time Sizikova - who has a world singles ranking of 765th - competed in the French Open Grand Slam.

Match-fixing is recognised as a serious problem in professional tennis, and a number of investigations have resulted in lifetime bans for some players. However these bans have usually involved poorly ranked players who are competing at lower-tier tournaments, as they struggle to make a living through the sport

Sweden

Swedish match-fixing investigation extended to cover money laundering

Led by director general of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce Gunnar Larsson, the investigation into match-fixing and unlicensed gaming began in December 2020 and has been extended until September 2021. Originally, it was set to close in June. In addition to tackling those issues, the new extended investigation will also take into consideration the need for harsher penalties concerning violations of money laundering and terrorist financing.

A recent report from the Swedish Financial Police found there were over 700 reports of money laundering in the country during 2020. The police’s National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing report also suggested that gambling is at the ‘highest threat level’ of money laundering. Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS) also claimed that all major Swedish banks have stopped offering their services to gambling operators, citing concerns about money laundering.

Minister for social protection Ardalan Shekarabi said: “The current investigation will propose solutions to enable effective supervision of illegal gambling and strengthen the work against match-fixing. These issues are of great importance for a sustainable gaming market. “It is therefore important that the investigator has enough time to develop well-elaborated proposals.”

Malta

Former Attard FC Committee Member Guilty Of Match-Fixing Faces Potential Prison Sentence

With AG Appealing Case A 21-year-old Maltese man who was fined €50,000 for match-fixing will have his case appealed after a magistrate failed to impose a recent law dictating that the individual should receive a jail sentence. Rudgear Scerri, who was a committee member of Attard FC, was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for four, after pleading guilty to the charges.

In making its decision, Magistrate Charmaine Galea took into account the early guilty plea from the accused, his clean criminal record and his own admission that his actions caused disrepute to the game.

However, the decision was seen as undermining the work of the Malta Football Association in combating match-fixing. Lovin Malta is now informed that Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg has appealed the case and the decision is expected to be overturned into a harsher sentence. According to the Attorney General’s interpretation of a 2018 legislation on the prevention of match-fixing, Scerri should have at least spent time behind bars.

Scerri was charged under articles four and five of the Prevention Of Corruption In Sports Act, which states that the offender should be subject to a prison term of no more than three and one years respectively. However, neither article four or five make reference to a minimum sentence period. Scerri will also receive further sanctions from sporting authorities following the conclusion of an investigation into his case.

Meanwhile, both Attard FC and the MFA immediately severed ties with Scerri and suspended him from any football activity. Although Attard FC wasn’t not directly implicated in the match-fixing attempts, the club received a €1,000 fine along with a five†year suspension from international competitions and a nine-point penalty for breaching regulations of bribery and betting. In order to curtail attempts at foul play in sports, the Malta Football Players Association, in tandem with local police and the MFA, has launched a ‘Red Button’ app to encourage players to anonymously report a match-fixing approach or attempt.

The app provides players with a mechanism to report match-fixing whilst preserving their anonymity. MFPA members can request a unique code that allows them to access the web-based app and file a report

Malta

Attard FC penalised over match-fixing attempt

The Malta Football Association has imposed a 9-point penalty, a €1,000 fine and a 5-year suspension from international competition on Attard FC after the club was found guilty of breaching its regulations on bribery and betting. The MFA’s decision came in the wake of the conviction of former Attard FC committee member Rudgear Scerri.

The 21-year-old was fined €50,000 and given a suspended sentence after admitting to attempting to fix a match between Attard and Kalkara FC, which was played on 5 December 2020. The court sentence had been handed down last January, and the MFA – whose president Bjorn Vassallo had lamented that the sentence was too lenient – had immediately suspended Scerri from any football activity, while Attard FC severed ties with him.

While other criminal proceedings concerning Scerri, pursued by the MFA, are still ongoing, the association’s board to adjudicating charges ruled that the judgment given by the Court of Magistrates and Scerri’s guilty plea were more than enough evidence to find the club guilty of breaching regulations. Attard FC will thus have to start the next season with a 9-point deduction, though it may choose to appeal the decision.

To help prevent future incidents of match-fixing, the Malta Football Players Association has recently launched the Red Button App, which allows footballers who have been offered bribes to report these attempts anonymously

Turkey

Turkey jails three for life in wake of match-fixing scandal

A Turkish court Friday jailed for life a media boss and two former police chiefs involved in the match-fixing investigation into Istanbul football giants Fenerbahce.

The convictions come after Aziz Yildirim — Fenerbahce chairman for more than a decade and one of the most prominent figures in Turkish football — was sentenced to six years in prison in 2012 after being convicted of setting the results of matches in the 2010/2011 season. Fenerbahce won that season’s hotly contested title ahead of arch-rivals Trabzonspor on goal difference.

The scandal surrounding the title win sent shock waves through Turkish football and led to Fenerbahce being banned from European competitions for a year. Yildirim was freed pending an appeal after spending more than a year in prison and acquitted in a retrial in October 2015. His vindication was followed by a Turkish investigation into dozens of police officers involved in the case against one of the country’s most popular clubs.

The three jailed on Friday were convicted of links to a terror group President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for staging a failed coup attempt in 2016. Former Istanbul police organised crime unit director Nazmi Ardic was sentenced to 1,972 years and 10 months in prison on multiple charges. Ex-police officer Lokman Yanik was jailed for 161 years and former Samanyolu TV group president Hidayet Karaca was sentenced to 1,406 years on charges including the “establishment of a conspiracy” against the football boss.

Current Fenerbahce chairman Ali Koc said he did not feel fully vindicated by the convictions. “No verdict can balance out what Fenerbahce and its millions of supporters have gone through over all these years,” he told reporters outside the courtroom. “There are still several more people that need to be held to account.”

LEGISLATION

Canada Legalizing single-game sports betting hits the home stretch

While it faces opponents in the parliamentary calendar and the Senate itself, legislation to make it legal to place bets on single sporting events will take another step toward the finish line this Wednesday. The first of at least two expected Senate committee meetings on Bill C-218 will be held that evening. C-218 was first tabled in the House of Commons in February 2020. It would allow people in Canada to legally place bets on single sports outcomes, such as an individual NHL game, or a lone boxing match.

Sports betting is already legal in Canada, but it must be done in parlays, which are when multiple outcomes are paired together. All have to hit correctly for the bet to be won. C-218’s changes would bring Canada more in line with nearly two dozen U.S. states, which loosened restrictions on sports betting after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned a 1992 ban that made betting on sports illegal in most states.

Sports betting of the kind Bill C-218 seeks to legalize is already big business in Canada. The Canadian Gaming Association estimates that $15 billion was bet on sports in 2020, but just three per cent of it (worth $450 million) was done legally. C-218’s passage was delayed by infrequent sittings necessitated by the pandemic and the prorogation of Parliament, before moving quickly through the House this spring.

It also came close to receiving unanimous support from MPs: In the only recorded vote in the House, the bill passed with 303 votes for and just 15 against. It reached the Senate on April 30, and passed its second reading, It was then sent to the Banking committee last Tuesday. The committee is expected to hear from some of the same witnesses whom the House Justice committee invited for its study of the bill. Mostly sporting, gambling, and gaming organizations were part of the Justice committee’s study. With both chambers of Parliament scheduled to wrap up their spring sittings in mid-June, any delays at this point of the committee’s study, or the ensuing third reading — where senators have their last chance to debate C-218 or offer amendments to it — could push its possible passage to the fall. That could jeopardize its progress entirely, given the possibility of a fall election. The Liberal government has already lasted about the average lifespan of a minority government in Canada.

Furthermore, while all parties have said a federal election shouldn’t be held until the pandemic is over, all Canadians who plan to get vaccinated should be, by the time Parliament sits again in September. If C-218 is amended by the Senate, it would have to be sent back to the House for reconsideration, and likely wouldn’t have time to pass this spring.

READ MORE: Sports-betting bill starts race against time in the Senate Sen. Vernon White, a longtime police chief and former Conservative who now sits as a member of the Canadian Senators Group, is the driving force behind one amendment. He wants the bill to address match-fixing. “In Canada today, it is not illegal to fix a match,” White said during the Senate’s second-reading debate of the bill. “This must be corrected when this legislation is passed. … It is essential that, when we change the Criminal Code to allow single-event betting, we must ensure that the criminal concern of match-fixing be added to those same sections of the Criminal Code.” Speaking to iPolitics on Monday, White, who isn’t a member of the Banking committee, said he was trying to find a senator on the committee who would put forward his amendment for him. If the amendment doesn’t pass there, White plans to offer it at third reading.

When asked about White’s concerns, Conservative Sen. David Wells — the Senate sponsor of the bill who took over responsibility for its passage from Conservative MP Kevin Waugh — said on Monday he feels the Criminal Code’s existing fraud laws would cover instances of match-fixing. He also stressed the need for the bill to progress quickly, if it’s going to pass. “The clock is not kind, especially in June,” Wells said

BETTING

ARF Asian racetracks urge crackdown on digital currency-based betting

A trade group representing major Asia-Pacific racing operators is sounding the alarm over the rising number of online betting sites that allow customers to wager using digital currencies, including BTC, Ethereum and Tether.

Recently, the Asian Racing Federation (ARF) Council on Anti-Illegal Betting & Related Financial Crime released a report into the use of blockchain and digital currencies in illegal betting. The report warns of digital currency’s capacity to evade scrutiny by gambling regulators and financial watchdogs, thereby “facilitating avoidance of anti-money laundering and know-your-customer procedures.”

The report claims that 780 ‘offshore’ gambling sites accept at least one of five digital currencies—BTC, Ethereum, Tether, Ripple and BCH—with the number of online betting and casino sites that accept BTC increasing by seven-fold and 13-fold, respectively, since 2018.

The report alleges that this facilitates not only customers funding their wagering activity but also allows operators to “offshore the criminal proceeds of their illegal betting operations.” The report singles out Asian-facing betting exchange Citibet as one of the leading unauthorized operators using digital currency to target bettors in Asian countries where wagering is either illegal or restricted to locally licensed sites. Citibet is a longtime bête noire of the ARF, but the report suggests that Citibet has launched digital currency-only betting subsidiaries that are intent on further draining the milkshakes of approved betting operators in Hong Kong, Australia and other Asia-Pacific jurisdictions.

While BTC and Ethereum remain the most popular examples of digital currency-based wagering, the so-called ‘stablecoin’ Tether accounted for more than one-third of annual digital currency outflow from East Asia in 2019/20. In January, China’s Ministry of Public Security cited Tether as playing an increasing role in unauthorized gambling operators’ illegal ‘fourth-party’ payment processing services. The ARF report also warned of an emerging threat from the Tron blockchain’s focus on gambling-related dapps.

In 2019, gambling-related dapps accounted for US$3.9b of the US$4.4 billion in total transaction volume on Tron. The ARF warns that the promotion of greater anonymity and KYC-avoidance by many Tron-based dapps foretells even greater headaches for Asian approved gambling operators. By contrast, BSV enterprise blockchain was designed from the start to work with regulators, including those overseeing gambling. BSV’s scaling capacity allows for a complete audit trail of customer activity, making it the first traceable electronic money system, while also permitting on-chain records that allow both customers and regulators to ensure that the games on offer are provably fair.

CORRUPTION

ICC

Corruption in cricket: ICC's Alex Marshall on Mr X, Bitcoin and fleeing suspects

From anti-corruption to anti-corruption. Part of Alex Marshall's 37-year career in the police involved investigating corruption in the force. If you're immediately thinking of AC-12 and "catching bent coppers", then he's quick to point out that he has carefully avoided the BBC television show Line of Duty. Now his brief is to fight corruption in world cricket.

He's a busy man too - the International Cricket Council's (ICC) anti-corruption unit which he leads has about 40 live investigations and six men have been sanctioned this year alone. You can take a look through some of the ICC's decisions, which are made public, albeit often redacted.

Revealing details of Bitcoin changing hands, suspects fleeing the country and liberal use of terms like 'Mr X', they are crime fiction in real life. "Across the main cricket-playing nations, there are some where gambling is illegal, but that doesn't stop it from being incredibly popular," says Marshall, a former Hampshire chief constable. The ICC judgements also detail how a fix is arranged. In some cases, it can be surprisingly mundane. United Arab Emirates pair Mohammad Naveed and Shaiman Anwar, for example, discussed their plans over a coffee on the beach.

However, the likelihood of a 'start-up' corruptor succeeding is remote. Sidling up to a cricketer in a hotel lobby and asking if they want to make a few quid is not the preferred method of most fixers. It is much more sophisticated than that. "More often than not, many months of planning go into it," explains 59-year-old Marshall. "We've had cases of franchise owners in lower-level tournaments who have deliberately moved in to that event and paid significant sums with the long-term intent of corrupting their own team or providing inside info to bookies. "When a draft is coming up, it's not uncommon for us to get approaches to players saying 'if you are willing to do this thing for the owners, you will be picked'. "A franchise owner could be working for bookies who have access to some pretty significant resources.

Once people start handing over more than a million dollars to buy a franchise team, you're getting towards serious territory. "What are they expecting to get back if they are willing to put that sort of money in?" Probably the most famous example of cricket corruption seen in the UK was the plot of Pakistan's Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir to deliberately bowl no-balls in the 2010 Lord's Test against England. "Therefore you end up with huge, unregulated markets. "In the regulated markets, you could run an algorithm on the betting patterns around a particular event and you might see anomalies. "In an unregulated market, there's no access to data. It's offline. It's through relationships in towns and villages. It's impossible to spot anomalies. "Therefore, the starting point for investigations is usually the information and intelligence that comes into us from people within cricket and often the corruptors themselves." However, that episode has given the false impression that fixes are often about singular, small events.

Whereas Asif and Amir were purposely bowling no-balls, a deliberate no-ball is often the signal that the fix is in and will affect the action that follows. "A fix tends to be about sessions of play," says Marshall. "Corruptors might approach opening batsmen or bowlers, and/or the captain, to try to influence a session of play.

"Not very often is it the whole match. Occasionally it has been, although that's quite rare. I can't think of an occasion where the corrupt act has been a single ball."

Naveed and Anwar, the pair from the beach, have been joined by UAE team-mate Qadeer Ahmed in receiving a ban this year. So too Sri Lankans Dilhara Lokuhettige and Nuwan Zoysa, and former Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak - the latter a high-profile case given his standing in the game.

What links the six men is the lack of riches in their own country compared to the rest of the cricketing world - a vulnerability a would-be corruptor will look to exploit. That search for vulnerability can also lead to other parts of the game. "There have been women approached," says Marshall. "So far the betting market on the women's game is relatively low. The reward for the corruptor is not great unless it's a very high-profile match. "Under-19 cricket is more popular.

There are betting markets and streams, so we have had younger players approached or asked for information." If a player, coach or official falls foul of temptation, vulnerability or circumstance, they run the risk of being thrown out of the game. There is a limit to the ICC's jurisdiction over corruptors who come from the outside, although that does not mean Marshall and his team are powerless. "We'll report them to law enforcement if what they are doing could be a crime. We'll talk to border agencies to try to stop them from getting in and out of countries," he says. "If there is someone in employment, we'll talk to their employers about what they are doing.

If we can get publicity, we'll put their name in the public domain. "We're hoping to publish the names of people who are excluded from cricket because they are corruptors. There's legal process to go through." There is a danger that cricket lovers can become cynical about what they see, to think that something too incredible to be true is just that. But, for all he knows about the darker side of the game, Marshall has not lost his trust. "I'm a fan who has my eyes open," he says. "I trust the cricket I'm watching in virtually all cases.

I also know there are corruptors watching the same cricket wondering where there is vulnerability and who they could approach. "The threat will always be there, but we can disrupt these corruptors and make sure the people within the game are resistant to these approaches. "You should believe in it. I do."

United States

Swiss bank Julius Baer to pay $79.7 mln in FIFA corruption settlement

The Swiss bank Julius Baer (BAER.S) will pay $79.7 million in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after being implicated in a sprawling corruption probe surrounding FIFA, the world's soccer governing body. Julius Baer's three-year deferred prosecution agreement on Thursday resolves a money laundering conspiracy charge, and calls for the Zurich-based bank to pay a $43.3 million criminal fine and forfeit $36.4 million.

The Justice Department said the forfeiture represents bribes that marketing executives paid soccer officials in exchange for broadcasting rights to soccer matches including the World Cup, and which a former Julius Baer banker helped launder. Julius Baer "turned a blind eye to glaring red flags of money laundering,"

Acting U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko in Brooklyn, New York, said in a statement. The agreement was accepted by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn, after Julius Baer's general counsel pleaded not guilty on the bank's behalf. No further punishment will be imposed if the bank complies with the agreement's terms. Julius Baer had previously set aside funds to cover the payout. Switzerland's third-largest listed bank has said it has cooperated with the Justice Department since 2015, upgraded its compliance controls and dismissed some clients. The Justice Department unveiled the FIFA probe in April 2015. More than 40 defendants have been charged, and at least 30 have pleaded guilty.

The former Julius Baer banker, Jorge Arzuaga, was sentenced in November to three years probation after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge. Arzuaga was accused of helping an Argentine sports marketing executive pay bribes to Julio Grondona, who was then president of Argentina's soccer federation and also a FIFA vice president. Grondona died in 2014. Swiss financial regulator FINMA has also imposed penalties for Julius Baer's anti-money laundering shortfalls, ordering the bank to improve its controls and appoint an auditor, and reprimanding two former chief executives. read more FINMA lifted a ban on Julius Baer making large acquisitions in March.

 

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