Swiss bank Julius Baer to pay $79.7 million in FIFA corruption settlement

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss private bank Julius Baer is seen in Zurich

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Swiss bank Julius Baer will pay $79.7 million in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after being implicated in a sprawling corruption probe surrounding FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body.

Julius Baer’s three-year deferred prosecution agreement on Thursday resolves a money laundering conspiracy charge, and calls for the Zurich-based bank to pay a $43.3 million criminal fine and forfeit $36.4 million.

The Justice Department said the forfeiture represents bribes that marketing executives paid soccer officials in exchange for broadcasting rights to soccer matches including the World Cup, and which a former Julius Baer banker helped launder.

Julius Baer “turned a blind eye to glaring red flags of money laundering,” Acting U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko in Brooklyn, New York, said in a statement.

The agreement was accepted by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn, after Julius Baer’s general counsel pleaded not guilty on the bank’s behalf.

No further punishment will be imposed if the bank complies with the agreement’s terms. Julius Baer had previously set aside funds to cover the payout.

Switzerland’s third-largest listed bank has said it has cooperated with the Justice Department since 2015, upgraded its compliance controls and dismissed some clients.

The Justice Department unveiled the FIFA probe in April 2015.

More than 40 defendants have been charged, and at least 30 have pleaded guilty.

The former Julius Baer banker, Jorge Arzuaga, was sentenced in November to three years probation after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge.

Arzuaga was accused of helping an Argentine sports marketing executive pay bribes to Julio Grondona, who was then president of Argentina’s soccer federation and also a FIFA vice president. Grondona died in 2014.

Swiss financial regulator FINMA has also imposed penalties for Julius Baer’s anti-money laundering shortfalls, ordering the bank to improve its controls and appoint an auditor, and reprimanding two former chief executives.

FINMA lifted a ban on Julius Baer making large acquisitions in March.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Jody Godoy; Editing by Richard Chang and Alexandra Hudson)