Swiss FIFA inquiry uncovers 53 possible money-laundering acts

Swiss banks have reported 53 possible money-laundering acts tied to FIFA investigation, authorities say

Authorities in Switzerland investigating FIFA's 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests say Swiss banks have reported 53 possible money-laundering acts allegedly tied to soccer's governing body.

Michael Lauber, a prosecutor with the Swiss attorney general's office, said Wednesday the "suspicious bank relations" were part of a complex case examining alleged "criminal mismanagement and money laundering" in the bidding processes culminating with Russia being awarded the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 World Cup.

Lauber said he hasn't ruled out interviewing outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Secretary General Jerome Valcke about the suspicious transactions reported by the banks.

In addition, the Swiss investigation is also probing payments associated with a friendly match played between Argentina and Brazil in Qatar two weeks before the FIFA World Cup vote in 2010.

No charges have been filed in the case, which began last November when FIFA filed a criminal complaint against "persons unknown" in connection to bids for the next two World Cups. Lauber, who has headed past cases targeting organized crime and money-laundering elements in Europe, said investigators are analyzing nine terabytes of data tied to the case.

"This is a dynamic process,” Lauber said. "It could really go everywhere and that is why I don't want to tell you which direction I put my focus."

The U.S. Justice Department indicted 14 individuals with ties to FIFA on corruption charges  May 27 as part an ongoing investigation that started in 2011. Former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer and three other men have entered guilty pleas. Blatter is also the target of an FBI criminal investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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