Zurich - The Swiss Attorney General's Office will investigate a contract for
media rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, two Swiss law enforcement
officials said over the weekend.
The inquiry follows a television news report asserting that FIFA sold the
rights for rates far below market to a Caribbean soccer organisation, whose
leader then resold them for much more.
The interest by Swiss prosecutors, who are already investigating how FIFA
awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights to Russia and Qatar, expands
the scrutiny facing FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter, along with Jack
Warner, former head of the Caribbean soccer federation.
Warner is under indictment in the United States for an alleged bribery
scheme relating to other soccer media rights in the Americas. Blatter faces no
charges. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
The latest inquiry involves a 2005 contract to televise the 2010 and 2014
World Cups in parts of the Caribbean.
Swiss broadcaster SRF reported on Friday that FIFA signed over the media
rights to the Caribbean Football Union for $600 000, but that Warner, head of
the CFU at the time, then transferred the rights to his own company and resold
them in a deal worth between $15 million and $20 million.
SRF posted excerpts of the contract on its website showing that Blatter and
Warner signed it themselves.
A spokesperson for US prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York did not respond to a
request for comment on whether American authorities, who are running their own
sweeping investigation of alleged corruption in soccer, would join Swiss law
enforcement in looking at the contract.
A US lawyer for Warner declined to comment, and the Caribbean Football Union
did not respond to an after-hours request for comment on Sunday. An attorney
for Blatter referred to a statement issued by FIFA on Saturday.
In its statement, the organisation said the agreement with the Caribbean
group promised FIFA much more than the up-front fee, and that FIFA was to
receive half of any profits related to subcontracting the rights.
If FIFA was due to receive substantially more than the upfront payment that
could undercut any argument that the fee paid was substantially below market
FIFA also said it terminated the contract in 2011 after the Caribbean soccer
organisation failed to meet its financial obligations or follow subcontracting
Blatter has not been accused of wrongdoing by Swiss or US authorities. Among
the issues the FBI is examining is Blatter's stewardship of FIFA, sources have
The media was unable to independently verify the SRF report, and neither the
broadcaster nor FIFA have made the full contract available.
It remained unclear
how much Warner might have made from the deal or whether the Caribbean soccer
federation breached the contract as alleged by FIFA. It couldn't
not be determined whether the contract's terms stipulated that FIFA ultimately would
collect much more than the up-front fee.
World soccer was thrown into turmoil in May when US prosecutors disclosed
an indictment of nine soccer officials, including several from FIFA, and five
sports marketing executives. Authorities charged them, including Warner, with
wire fraud and money-laundering involving more than $150 million.
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber and US Attorney General Loretta
Lynch are due to speak about their FIFA investigations on Monday at a news
conference in Zurich.
Warner, who left organised soccer in 2011, has said in the past that he had
evidence he was gifted World Cup television rights in his region a number of
times, including for the 2010 and 2014 events, in return for securing votes for
Blatter's campaigns for FIFA president. He said the money made from media
rights was used "to develop Caribbean football."
FIFA has dismissed Warner's claims as false and said that television rights
had nothing do with Blatter's election campaigns.
Since his indictment in May, Warner has remained in Trinidad and vowed to
resist US efforts to bring him to New York to face charges. He was president of
the regional soccer confederation CONCACAF for 21 years and was a FIFA
executive committee member.