The suspensions of FIFA President Joseph Blatter and the European soccer chief Michel Platini is a moderate internal reprimand considering that there are 30 other people accused in multimillion-dollar bribery cases. These irregularities could not have occurred without the help of the banks, who turned a blind eye when transactions of dubious legality were being performed.
The Department of Justice established its jurisdiction in the case of an international organization based in Switzerland, claiming that the alleged crimes of racketeering conspiracy, fraud and money laundering were perpetrated in the United States. The formal indictment dedicates a whole subsection to the “Centrality of the U. S. Financial System” in the FIFA scandal. The document accuses FIFA executives of relying “heavily” on U.S. banks and financial institutions, stating that this reliance was “one of the central methods and means through which they promoted and concealed their schemes.”
That is why now, according to the Financial Times, U.S. attorney generals are meeting with executives from JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Standard Chartered and UBS. It is apparent that these banks did not fulfill their obligation to report suspicious transactions. Their defense: “Some of the people accused in the bribery scheme were some of the most well-respected businessmen in their countries, and did not prompt suspicion.”
This argument is not easy to accept given the recent history of these banks. JPMorgan was forced to pay $2.6 billion in a settlement in the Bernie Madoff case, and $926 million for hiding losses in another. HSBC, for its part, laundered billions of dollars for Mexican drug lords, including at least $881 million belonging to “El Chapo” Guzmán. The bank reached a settlement and paid $1.9 billion to U.S. authorities.
In the FIFA case, the suspicion that banks looked the other way comes from the fact that, between 2009 and 2012, the international organization based in Paris singled out soccer as a favorable sector to launder money.
U.S. banks are used to paying fines for their executives’ criminal decisions. It would be a great injustice if the only people taken to court ended up being those at FIFA, and not the bankers who were accomplices to their financial schemes.