Fifa hand over 20,000 pages of evidence to authorities after two-year corruption investigation

Ed Malyon and Matt Slater
The Independent
Fifa are helping authorities in their pursuit of wrongdoing: Getty
Fifa are helping authorities in their pursuit of wrongdoing: Getty

After the humiliation will come the revenge.

Fifa, still trying to rebuild the reputation that was globally obliterated two years ago, has completed its 22-month investigation into the corruption scandal that brought world football's governing body to its knees. Loaded with paperwork and evidence, they have now handed over more than 20,000 pages of exhibits to the Swiss authorities after an exhaustive probe.

Launched soon after the dramatic arrest of several top officials at a luxury Zurich hotel before the Fifa Congress in May 2015, the investigation has been conducted on Fifa's behalf by American law firm Quinn Emanuel and Swiss counterparts NKF. And it didn't come cheap, with Fifa's legal costs rising some US$30million last year.

But between the two firms, they have reviewed more than 2.5million documents, interviewed dozens of witnesses and written reports that total more than 1,300 pages, all of which have now gone to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), which will share everything with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

While the case is strongly identified with former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Fifa-commissioned reports will actually arrive at the U.S. Department of Justice and Brooklyn federal prosecution under new leaders of President Donald Trump's administration, where the under-fire Jeff Sessions has been freshly installed.

Switzerland attorney general Michael Lauber remains in control of his office's investigation.

A view of the Baur au Lac where Fifa arrests stunned the world in 2015 ()
A view of the Baur au Lac where Fifa arrests stunned the world in 2015 ()

Fifa's new president Gianni Infantino, elected only after a wild race that was soured by Michel Platini's ban from football, said: "Fifa committed to conducting a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the facts so we could hold wrongdoers within football accountable and cooperate with the authorities.

"We have now completed that investigation and handed the evidence over to the authorities, who will continue to pursue those who enriched themselves and abused their positions of trust in football. Fifa will now return its focus to the game, for fans and players throughout the world."

Fifa's move here is obvious. They are cooperating as fully as possible and trying to retain something approaching victim status. It is how they have been treated, in a legal sense, up to this point but they have also been strongly warned that they should not interfere with the process. The corruption, deep-rooted and audacious as it was, was an affront to world football's governing body and stole millions of their funds. Should the courts side with them eventually, they may even be returned some of the US$200million that has been seized by the FBI.

While there is a public appetite to see what evidence has been uncovered, none of it can currently be shared publicly while the American and Swiss legal cases are ongoing.

New Fifa president Gianni Infantino wants more transparency (Getty)
New Fifa president Gianni Infantino wants more transparency (Getty)

But at the end of April, Fifa will release the details of the compliance, finance and governance audits that Infantino announced at his first Fifa Congress as president in May last year - providing more transparency.

As these investigations were more about Fifa's internal workings, as opposed to any exploration of criminal activity, Infantino is keen to demonstrate that football's international federation has learned lessons from the scandals of his predecessor Sepp Blatter's era and they will not happen again.

Allegations of bribery and fraud have surrounded Fifa for decades, but they threatened to bring the entire organisation down in 2015 when 34 football officials and businessmen were indicted by the American Department of Justice on charges related to broadcast contracts, sponsorship deals and tickets in North, South and Central American football.

Julio Grondona, now deceased, embezzled millions of dollars from his role at Fifa (Getty Images)
Julio Grondona, now deceased, embezzled millions of dollars from his role at Fifa (Getty Images)

This prompted the Swiss authorities to start their own investigation into Fifa's activities, and separate inquiries have been launched in Australia, Costa Rica and Germany, with the focus spreading to Fifa elections and World Cup bids.

With no sign of these investigations being close to completion, they have already accounted for many of the biggest names in football over the last few decades. Blatter, ex-Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke, former Uefa boss Michel Platini, South American chief Julio Grondona and ex-Concacaf bosses Chuck Blazer, Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb are just some of the game's power-brokers who have been toppled and disgraced along the way.

With such an enormous cache of evidence being passed to the authorities, there may well be more to come.

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