FIFA judge faces ethics investigation over offshore accounts

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ZURICH (AP) 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 that it “opened a preliminary investigation to review the allegations” linked to lawyer Juan Pedro Damiani of Uruguay.

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Damiani was identified in reports Sunday by international media who received a vast trove of data and documents leaked from a Panama law firm about evading tax and hiding assets through offshore accounts.

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 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 bribery and money laundering charges.

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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.