FIFA corruption scandal: Israel's Bank Hapoalim to pay $900 million fine

Since the first arrests of people attending the FIFA Congress in May 2015, there have been 26 publicly announced individual guilty pleas.

In a first, the FIFA corruption scandal has seen financial institutions implicated.   -  AP

Israel's Bank Hapoalim has agreed to pay more than $900 million to settle two separate cases which include its role in helping launder proceeds from the FIFA corruption scandal, the US Department of Justice said on Thursday.

In the largest case, Bank Hapoalim has been ordered to pay $874 million to the US Treasury, Federal Reserve and New York state authorities after pleading guilty to helping US taxpayers stash some $7.6 billion in more than 5,500 secret Swiss and Israeli bank accounts.

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It is the second-largest recovery by the Department of Justice since it began investigating the facilitation of US tax evasion by foreign banks in 2008, a statement said.

“There is no excuse for a foreign financial institution to unlawfully assist wealthy Americans in flouting their responsibilities to pay their taxes,” said Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation chief Don Fort.

“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.”

In a separate settlement confirmed on Thursday, the Justice Department said Bank Hapoalim had also agreed to pay more than $30 million in forfeitures and fines for helping launder cash in the corruption scandal that embroiled football's world governing body FIFA.

The Justice Department said Hapoalim and its Swiss subsidiary had helped launder more than $20 million in bribes and kickbacks for corrupt officials involved in the FIFA plot, which erupted in 2015.

The bank has agreed to forfeit $20.7 million and pay a fine of $9.3 million to resolve the investigation.

“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 assistant attorney general Brian Benczkowski.

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William Sweeney, assistant director of the FBI's New York field office, said the case highlighted the “spider web of bribery, corruption and backroom deals” which characterized the FIFA case.

“Bank Hapoalim admits executives looked the other way, and allowed illicit activity to continue even when employees discovered the scheme and reported it,” Sweeney said.

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