The large Swiss bank Julius Baer & Co. Thursday received a stay-of-prosecution agreement from federal prosecutors and agreed to pay a criminal fine and forfeiture of approximately $80 million for conspiracy of money related to bribes involving international football governing body FIFA.
The deal means that Julius Baer will face no trial or criminal penalty in this case if the bank adheres to the terms of the agreement for the next 42 months.
The deal, the latest in a series of FIFA-related criminal cases, was announced in Brooklyn, New York, federal court during a hearing before the bank, which was formally charged with money laundering conspiracy.
The crime involved a scheme in which sports marketing companies bribed officials from FIFA and other football federations in order to obtain broadcasting rights to games.
A total of $36.37 million was laundered through Julius Baer as part of that settlement, who agreed to pay that amount forfeit while the rest of his payments covered the criminal fine.
Julius Baer is Switzerland’s third largest bank. According to a Reuters report last November, the bank had cooperated with the DOJ’s investigation into alleged money laundering and corruption involving FIFA officials and affiliates.
The US Justice Department said on Thursday that Julius Baer confessed that certain clients’ accounts had been “associated with international football, which was widely believed to carry significant corruption risks”.
“Yet, a, [bank] director ordered that the opening of these accounts be expedited in the hopes that these clients would generate lucrative business,” the DOJ said in a press release.
A bank official, who appeared during the virtual proceedings, pleaded not guilty to the case and told U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen that the bank agreed to the deferred prosecution agreement.
The terms of that deal include the bank’s acknowledgment that the criminal charges against her are true and accurate, and that they can be used in other proceedings against Julius Baer.
“Today’s resolution sends a strong message to all banks and other financial institutions that if they knowingly abuse our financial system to hide their clients’ criminal proceeds or to promote a corrupt scheme, they will be held accountable. called,” said Nicholas McQuaid, the acting director. Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the Ministry of Justice.
“From the time of the first FIFA-related indictment, the department has promised to hold accountable the financial institutions involved in this global criminal scheme. We are keeping that promise,” said McQuaid.
The DOJ said the bank colluded with sports marketing executives, including Alejandro Burzaco, the controlling director of Argentina-based Torneos y Competencias SA, from February 2013 to May 2015, through a former client relationship manager named Jorge Luis Arzuaga, to launder the bribes through the United States. States to football officials for broadcasting rights.
The bank “conspired to conduct these illegal transactions through accounts with the bank in order to hide the true nature of the payments and promote the fraud,” the DOJ said in its press release.
The release noted, “Burzaco pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other crimes in November 2015.”
Burzaco and co-conspirators agreed to pay approximately $30 million to FIFA’s senior vice president, who was also the president of the Asociación del Fútbol Argentina, for his support in granting regional broadcasting rights for the 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 editions of the World Cup,” according to the DOJ.
Burzaco’s company also agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars to bribe officials of the South American Football Federation CONMEBOL, all of whom were also FIFA officials, for the rights to the Copa América tournament (including the 2015 2019 and 2019 editions). 2023 of the tournament and the 2016 Copa América Centenario, a tournament commemorative to be played in stadiums across the United States,” the DOJ said.
Julius Baer took a nearly $80 million provision on his books in November to cover what the bank expected to pay in fines after agreeing in principle with the US Department of Justice to the deferred prosecution agreement.
That same month, Arzuaga, who had worked at the bank’s offices in Montevideo, Uruguay and Zurich, was sentenced to three years of supervised release in his own criminal case after pleading guilty several years earlier to conspiracy.
In March, Swiss regulators have announced they will lift a takeover ban which they imposed on Julius Baer in connection with the bank’s failure to prevent money laundering by its customers.