Switzerland targets corruption in sports with 'FIFA bill'

David Courbet
UEFA and a rival to FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Monday attacked football's world governing body over claims that a report on reforms was watered down (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)
UEFA and a rival to FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Monday attacked football's world governing body over claims that a report on reforms was watered down (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Geneva (AFP) - Swiss deputies on Friday passed a law making it easier to bring corruption charges against the leaders of international sporting bodies such as FIFA which have faced years of sleaze allegations.

The law will affect about 60 multi-billion dollar sporting federations, including football's governing body and the International Olympic Committee, based in Switzerland and has become known as "Lex FIFA", or the FIFA law.

The legislation makes the chiefs of sporting federations "politically exposed persons," alongside political dictators, for whom an allegation of money laundering or corruption will trigger judicial proceedings.

"With this law, corruption in sport will become a crime. It's the first step towards cleaning up sport," Roland Buchel, a lawmaker with the populist Swiss People's Party who led a four-year campaign for the bill, told AFP.

The law is in response to years of allegations of corruption against sporting bodies, including FIFA.

Football's global body, which is based in Zurich, has been at the centre of controversy over its decision to grant the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

FIFA and Qatar have denied any wrongdoing.

But the governing body's executive will vote next week on whether to release the full report of corruption inquiry.

Federation chiefs had been exempt from Swiss laws on money laundering, which were based on measures drawn up by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force.

The new lawl, under which banks will have to flag any suspect payments, brings sports officials -- and their relatives -- into line with politicians.

"It sends a clear message to the world, that officials must accept responsibility," Buchel said.

He said the law should be rubber stamped by the government by April or May 2015.

- FIFA and IOC welcome bill -

FIFA and the International Olympic Committee welcomed the new law, which was passed by the lower chamber, the National Council by 128 votes to 62 against, with five abstentions.

"As FIFA has repeatedly stated in the past, FIFA supports government measures for protecting the integrity of the sport and tackling corruption," a spokesman said.

The organisation last month published a summary of an investigation into the Qatar bids and Russia's victory for the 2018 World Cup, clearing them of corruption and ruling out a re-vote.

But the author of the investigation, lawyer Michael Garcia, has slammed the summary as "incomplete and erroneous". He has lodged an appeal with FIFA to get a new version released.

The IOC brought in new rules on bidding following bribery revelations surrounding Salt Lake City's bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The Lausanne-based organisation "fully supports and welcomes this important move by Swiss lawmakers -– it is in line with what the IOC already does," its president Thomas Bach said.

The new bill only affects international organisations based in Switzerland -- where they enjoy favourable tax status -- and not regional or national groups.

Buchel said he regretted that UEFA, European football's governing body which is based in the Swiss town of Nyon, was not covered, but said he hoped it would eventually be.

Asked if he feared sporting bodies might now leave Switzerland, he said: "Good riddance."

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