Israeli bank Hapoalim admits money laundering as part of FIFA scandal

Israeli bank, Hapoalim, has agreed to pay $30million (£24million/€27.2million) after admitting money laundering as part of a high profile FIFA corruption case, reports
The United States Justice Department announced that the bank, the largest in Israel, had pleaded guilty of conspiring to conceal the origins of $20million (£16million/€18.1million) obtained illegally through bribes and incentives between December 2010 and February 2015, by transferring the money to high-profile figures caught up in the FIFA corruption case, which dates back to 2015.
The case led to former FIFA President Sepp Blatter being removed from office and an investigation being launched into the awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar.
“For nearly five years, Bank Hapoalim employees used the US financial system to launder tens of millions of dollars in bribe payments to corrupt soccer officials in multiple countries,” said the US Justice Department’s assistant attorney general Brian Benczkowski.
Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation chief Don Fort added: “There is no excuse for a foreign financial institution to unlawfully assist wealthy Americans in flouting their responsibilities to pay their taxes.
“With today’s guilty plea, Bank Hapoalim is taking responsibility for their role in deliberately breaking the law and undermining the integrity of this nation’s tax system.”
The scheme reportedly took place through Hapoalim’s Miami branch in the United States, with many of the payments linked to marketing rights for the Copa America, as reported by insideworldfootball.
Eugenio Figueredo, former President of Conmebol and Uruguay’s federation, was among those accused of receiving the bribes, as was Luis Bedoya, former President of Colombia’s federation.
Both men were former members of FIFA’s Executive Committee.
As part of a deal to avoid prosecution for their involvement in the case, Bank Hapoalim BM in Israel and its wholly owned Swiss company Hapoalim Ltd agreed to forfeit $20.73million (£16.58million/€18.76million) and pay a fine of $9.33million (£7.46million/€8.45million).
“Bank Hapoalim admits executives looked the other way, and allowed illicit activity to continue even when employees discovered the scheme and reported it”, said William Sweeney, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York office.
“The case highlights the spider web of bribery, corruption and back-room deals going on behind the scenes as soccer games were played on the field.”
At the same time Bank Hapoalim also agreed to pay $875million (£700million/€793million) in a deferred prosecution agreement after pleading guilty to hiding $7.6billion (£6.08billion/€6.89billion) in more than 5,500 secret Swiss and Israeli bank accounts.

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