31 May 2015

UK banks ‘launch Fifa internal probe’ amid calls for boycott

The Serious Fraud Office announces it is assessing “material in its possession” relating to allegations of corruption at the heart of world football’s governing body.

British banks Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank were used to transfer cash as part of the conspiracy, US prosecutors allege.

Barclays Bank is believed to have launched an internal review into the claims, while Standard Chartered Bank said it is “looking in to the payments”.

Barclays and HSBC have declined to publicly comment on reports. However, Standard Chartered have confirmed they are looking into the payments, the BBC has reported.

Fifa boycott calls

Meanwhile, there have been calls for Europe to consider boycotting future World Cups if Sepp Blatter does not step down as head of football’s governing body.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale told the Sunday Times that England and Uefa were right to consider turning their backs on the tournament, adding “no options should be ruled out”.

No options should be ruled out. John Whittingdale

He said: “Fifa must finally begin to act, in the words of its much-derided motto, ‘for the good of the game'”.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger said he did not see why England needed to boycott the tournament.

Blatter, 79, won a vote on Friday to serve a fifth term as Fifa president even though the US Department of Justice has charged nine soccer officials with corruption and Swiss authorities are conducting their own criminal investigation.

He has played down the impact of the scandal on one of the world’s most powerful sports bodies, which takes in billions of dollars in revenue from TV marketing rights and sponsorships.

‘Zero respect’

Blatter is not accused of any wrongdoing personally and has implied that the United States timed news of the charges to try to scupper his re-election.

Read more: Sepp Blatter defiant and not 'concerned' about arrest

Asked how he had coped with the criticism in the past few days, he told the Swiss newspaper Sonntagsblick: “Let me put it this way: I’ve been shown zero respect.”

The Sunday Times newspaper reported Swiss prosecutors would question Blatter, who has led Fifa for nearly 20 years, as part of a criminal investigation into votes to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

A spokesman for Switzerland’s attorney general dismissed the possibility of immediately calling in Blatter as “nonsense”.

“The president of Fifa will not be questioned at this point in time,” the spokesman said. However, he added: “If need be, he will be questioned in the future.”