Switzerland’s parliament recently passed a bill with the intention of curbing corruption by increasing the financial scrutiny of over 60 international sports bodies, including FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The new set of stricter laws, known as “Lex FIFA” (FIFA law), are a direct response to several years of corruption allegations. Swiss lawmakers voted 128 to 62 in favor of reforming a more inclusive bill based on the strict guidelines created by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Under the new law, sports executives such as FIFA boss Sepp Blatter and the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach, will be classified and treated as “politically exposed persons,” making it easier to pursue legal action against them if they are suspected of corrupt, illegal acts such as money laundering.
The term “politically exposed persons” is used by justice officials to describe those who are in a position which makes it easy to abuse power. The new law also mandates closely monitoring any suspicious activity of the bank accounts and financial assets held in Switzerland by FIFA and IOC. Switzerland’s banks are already obligated to ensure the legality of funds prior to accepting them; however, the bill calls for even further financial examination.
Parliamentarian Rolan Büchel of the Swiss People’s Party spearheaded the bill’s reform, aiming to increase government involvement in sports organizations in an effort to improve their public image as well as the country’s foreign reputation, according to SwissInfo.ch. “Parliament didn’t want a softer law – a clear majority wanted the tough version,” Büchel said.
A FIFA spokesperson responded to the bill’s passing by voicing the sport organization’s support, stating that “FIFA supports government measures for protecting the integrity of…sport and tackling corruption,” according to Swissinfo.ch.
As non-profit organizations, FIFA and the IOC have enjoyed significantly lower tax bills than private-sector corporations in Switzerland. This legal status puts them on the same level as community projects, though they generate far more in revenue. Last year, FIFA is said to have produced nearly $1.4 billion in revenue.
With 66% of nearly all youth males participating in organized sports, the both FIFA and IOC sports events draw large crowds, filling stadiums to capacity. However, despite their dedicated fan base, both organizations have been subject to negative press.
FIFA’s ethics were most recently called into question when they were accused of corruption and bribery over the decision to grant Qatar the 2022 World Cup. FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert released a report last month which cleared Russia and Qatar of any illegal activity in bidding for 2018 and 2022 World Cup events. However, Michael Garcia, an independent ethics investigator, has appeal FIFA’s summary. A FIFA meeting held this week in Marrakesh, Morocco will determine if the investigator’s full report is to be made public.