FIFA Scandal: Swiss Probe Could Lead to New Vote on Russia, Qatar World Cups

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter

The world soccer body confirms it may reopen bids for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments if investigators uncover clear evidence of bribery.

Swiss investigators looking into alleged corruption at world soccer governing body FIFA said Wednesday that they are looking into more than 50 possible cases of money laundering and more than 100 incidents of “suspicious activity” involved in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. 

Those tournaments were, controversially, awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively. But if the criminal investigation turns up clear evidence of bribery, the votes could be reheld, FIFA confirmed.

Domenico Scala, head of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, told Swiss media a new vote on the host countries was possible. This gives hope to countries such as England, which had been the favorite to win the 2018 tournament, and Australia and the U.S., at the time considered frontrunners for the 2022 bid.

A revote would be great news for Fox Sports and NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo, which hold the U.S. TV rights for both tournaments, particularly if the U.S. were picked as the new host for the 2022 tournament.

The Swiss investigation into FIFA is running parallel to an FBI inquiry that has already resulted in the arrest of 14 executives, including several senior members of FIFA. The criminal investigations have plunged FIFA into crisis and resulted in FIFA president Sepp Blatter announcing his resignation, with an election to pick a new president expected as early as December.

The FBI investigation began examining alleged money laundering and corruption connected to soccer tournaments in North America and the Caribbean, but has since been expanded to include the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber, speaking at a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, on Wednesday, said his team was examining “9 terabytes” of data from FIFA's Zurich headquarters and Swiss banks. Lauber said the “huge and complex” investigation could take months if not years to complete.

From the start, there have been allegations of corruption and bribery in connection with the 2018 and 2022 bids. FIFA's own internal investigation has been shrouded by controversy, not least because Russia claimed it was unable to provide key documents related to its bid because it had lost all the relevant emails.

The head of the FIFA investigation, ethics committee chief Michael Garcia, resigned in frustration after FIFA refused to publish his entire 350-page report, instead releasing a 42-page summary that cleared both Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing.

Scala, in an interview with Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung, confirmed that FIFA could hold a revote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups if evidence of corruption, such as vote-buying, could be proven. But, he insisted, “This evidence has not yet been brought forth.”

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