Switzerland Opens Criminal Proceedings Related to Russia, Qatar Soccer World Cup Bids

Authorities have seized electronic data and documents at FIFA headquarters as part of an investigation into the controversial awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

The Swiss attorney general's office has begun criminal proceedings on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and money laundering in connection with the controversial awarding of the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

Swiss authorities on Wednesday seized electronic data and documents from the Zurich headquarters of FIFA, the world soccer governing body, the attorney general's office said in a statement.

The raid and the investigation are separate from the arrests of several FIFA officials in Zurich Wednesday made on behalf of U.S. authorities.

Swiss authorities are questioning 10 people who took part in the voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. If evidence of criminal activity is found, it could force FIFA to reopen bidding or renegotiate television rights for the events.

The Swiss attorney general's office said it opened criminal proceedings on March 10, and announced them Wednesday, on suspicion of “irregularities” connected with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The office said there is suspicion of money laundering through Swiss bank accounts. The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York is carrying out a separate criminal investigation into FIFA's activities and is coordinating its efforts with the Swiss authorities.

Zurich police carried out a dawn raid on behalf of the U.S. Attorney's Office at the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich Wednesday, arresting a number of FIFA officials on corruption charges. 

FIFA is facing an unprecedented crisis ahead of its general congress in Zurich on Friday, where incumbent president Sepp Blatter will run for a fifth term as head of the powerful sports body. Blatter has not been detained by police and has so far not been charged or accused of any wrongdoing. "He is not involved," said FIFA’s director of communications and public affairs Walter De Gregorio during a press conference Wednesday.

De Gregorio added that, based on what is currently known, the 2018 and 2002 World Cups would go ahead as planned in Russia and Qatar. "There will be no new bids," he said. He added that FIFA itself initiated the investigations into the World Cup bids last year and that the organization was "cooperating fully" with the authorities. "This is good for FIFA," he said. 

 Twitter:@sroxborough

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