Fraud Office pursues inquiry into 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids

The SFO has invited the whistleblowers who cooperated with Fifa’s own investigation to provide them with confidential evidence

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The Independent Online

Fifa could face a criminal investigation in the United Kingdom after it emerged that the Serious Fraud Office is looking for evidence relating to the World Cup corruption probe.

The SFO has confirmed that it is pursuing “every reasonable line of inquiry” to decide if it should proceed with an investigation. It had previously stated that it did not have the “jurisdiction” to launch an inquiry because there was no evidence that illegal activity had taken place in the UK during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, won by Russia and Qatar respectively.

The revelation comes in the wake of Fifa making a complaint to the attorney general in Switzerland, where the world governing body is based, over claims about the transfer of assets.

The SFO has invited the whistleblowers who cooperated with Fifa’s own investigation, Phaedra al Majid and Bonita Mersiades, who worked for the Qatar and Australia bid teams respectively, to provide them with evidence using a confidential email address.

 

Having been contacted by the Conservative MP Damian Collins, who has been campaigning to expose corruption in the bidding process, the SFO’s general counsel, Alun Milford, wrote back saying: “You can be assured that every reasonable line of inquiry, including working closely with appropriate overseas authorities, is being pursued to ascertain whether the director has grounds to open an investigation.”

He added: “Plainly, the Serious Fraud Office welcomes any additional information that may assist in determining whether a criminal investigation should be opened, and I encourage anyone with relevant information to come forward and discuss it, in strict confidence, with our Intelligence Unit.”

The involvement of the SFO also follows a probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States into the bids. The FBI has been in contact with Majid and also Chuck Blazer, the disgraced former head of the Concacaf region, who provided it with information using a bugging device while at the 2012 Olympic Games in London – a revelation which prompted Collins to contact the SFO.

Collins is scheduled to hold a debate in the House of Commons on Monday about the Fifa allegations.

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