FIFA judge faces ethics investigation over offshore accounts
GENEVA — A FIFA judge who helped ban Sepp Blatter for financial misconduct is now under investigation by his ethics committee colleagues after being named in an international probe of offshore accounts.
The FIFA ethics prosecution chamber said Monday (Tuesday Manila time) that it “opened a preliminary investigation to review the allegations” linked to lawyer Juan Pedro Damiani of Uruguay.
Damiani was identified in reports by international media who received a vast trove of data and documents leaked from a law firm based in Panama. The firm, Mossack Fonseca, specializes in creating offshore accounts which can be used to avoid tax.
He heads his family’s legal and accountancy practice in Montevideo founded by his late father, Jose Pedro Damiani.
The FIFA case against Damiani was opened in March after ethics judges learned of his “business relationship” with former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo, a fellow Uruguayan who was arrested in Zurich almost 10 months earlier.
Figueredo was indicted by American federal prosecutors last May, and later extradited to Uruguay. In December, Figueredo pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges and acknowledged taking bribes.
Damiani was a founding member of the FIFA ethics committee in 2006. He was proposed by the South American soccer body, CONMEBOL, and approved by the FIFA executive committee chaired by then-president Blatter.
Damiani retained his place when the FIFA ethics court was restructured in 2012 under the leadership of chief judge Joachim Eckert and former U.S. federal prosecutor Michael Garcia, then the lead investigator.
In December, Blatter identified Damiani as one of four ethics judges who passed an eight-year ban on him for several violations of the FIFA ethics code, including a financial conflict of interest. Blatter’s ban was reduced to six years on appeal, and he has filed a further challenge at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The FIFA judging panel in Blatter’s case was chaired by Eckert, who referred claims linked with Damiani to the current FIFA chief prosecutor Cornel Borbely.
“Dr. Borbely is currently looking into said allegations in order to determine if there is a breach against the FIFA Code of Ethics and decide any further measures,” the ethics committee statement said.
Damiani is “currently not involved in any ongoing cases of the adjudicatory chamber,” according to a statement from Eckert’s FIFA office.
Damiani also followed his father into football, succeeding him as president of Uruguay’s 49-time champion Penarol.
Last week, Damiani hosted Blatter’s successor as elected FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, at the club and presented him with a personalized yellow and black-striped team shirt.
Separately, suspended UEFA president Michel Platini said after he was named in the leaked documents that all his accounts and assets are known to Swiss tax authorities
According to Le Monde newspaper, which has access to the leaked documents, Platini has an offshore company founded in Panama in 2007 and named Balney Enterprises Corp.
Platini’s advisers said in a statement that the former France international “wants to inform that, as he stated it many times to the journalists in charge of the investigation, all of his accounts and assets are known to the tax authorities in Switzerland, where he has been a fiscal resident since 2007.”
Platini’s communication team declined to confirm whether the Frenchman actually ran the company.
Platini was suspended from office in October by FIFA’s ethics committee and is now serving a six-year ban over a $2 million payment former FIFA president Sepp Blatter approved from FIFA funds in 2011.
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