The news of the arrest of FIFA officials in Switzerland in relation to a bribery investigation by US authorities highlights more than ever the international reach of corruption legislation like the FCPA. It is understood that the US authorities are seeking extradition.
The Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said in a statement on Wednesday that US authorities suspected the officials of receiving $150m (£97m) worth of bribes since the early 1990s for football tournaments in Latin America.
The crimes were agreed to and prepared in the US via US bank accounts, it adds.
Swiss authorities can immediately approve the extradition, the statement continues.
Whilst full details have not been released, it appears that the US authorities may be investigating under the protective principle of the Act where if any part of the unlawful conduct occurred in the US, then the US authorities have jurisdiction.
It is understood that a FBI investigation has been ongoing for 3 years. A US Department of Justice release has confirmed that authorities have charged 14 officials – 9 of whom are current or former FIFA executives.
Despite numerous inquiries such as the Garcia Inquiry, FIFA continues to be bedeviled by allegations of corruption. Although Garcia is an eminent lawyer from the US, FIFA failed to publish the report when completed. The fallout from this debacle shows that not only do investigations need to be thorough and conducted by people of appropriate level, but that inquiries need to be followed through with concrete action – and perhaps most importantly, action needs to be seen to be taken.
Whatever, the eventual results of the US investigation, FIFA is facing more issues of reputation management – and already activists have started a campaign targeting sponsors to withdraw support from FIFAs world cup – partly as a result of its reputation on corruption
Organisations need to be aware of the jurisdictional reach of both US and UK authorities, of the desirability of launching an investigation (ref Chapter 9 “Internal Company Investigations” from Bribery: A Compliance Handbook), acting on the results of that investigation and ensuring that there is an appropriate plan in place for reputational management.
This article first appeared on Bloomsbury Law Online.