Sat, Dec 13, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Swiss lawmakers vote for scrutiny over sports officials

Reuters, BERN

Swiss lawmakers yesterday passed a bill that would subject sports officials such as the head of soccer’s governing body FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to more financial scrutiny by banks in Switzerland.

Switzerland is responding to years of corruption allegations with a set of laws that have become known as “Lex FIFA” that aim to tighten oversight of the about 60 sporting bodies based there.

Swiss lawmakers voted 128 to 62 in favor of revising a broader bill designed to fight money laundering, based on guidelines set up by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The bill now includes wording saying FIFA president Sepp Blatter and other sports executives, such as International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, should be treated as “politically exposed persons” — a term justice officials use to define those in positions that could be abused to launder money.

Bach, who on Monday pushed through sweeping reforms to Olympic bidding, said he welcomed the measures “wholeheartedly.”

The IOC will audit its accounts to higher standards than legally required of the organization, as well as provide a yearly finance report, including the allowance policy for all IOC members, Bach said.

FIFA was not immediately available for comment on the bill, which now goes to the Swiss government to be written into law.

This would by necessity increase financial scrutiny of sports officials because Switzerland’s banks are legally required to ensure funds are not of suspicious origin before they accept them.

The broader money-laundering guidelines aim to keep Switzerland, which in May said it would do away with banking secrecy by joining the growing ranks of countries agreeing to share tax information, off FATF blacklists.

Transparency campaigners have said that Switzerland’s anti-money laundering laws do not go far enough. For example, no substantial checks are currently required on cash purchases at the many luxury shops, art dealers and jewelers that dot the high streets of cities such as Geneva and Zurich.

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