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FIFA sends 1,300-page corruption probe to Swiss prosecutors

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA has sent 1,300 pages of internal investigation reports into suspected bribery and corruption to Switzerland’s attorney general.

However, FIFA said Friday it was legally barred from publishing the full reports or commenting on the evidence or conclusions.

The documents complete a 22-month probe by legal firm Quinn Emanuel, which FIFA retained in the fallout from United States and Swiss federal prosecutors revealing their sprawling investigations of soccer corruption in May 2015.

[ MORE: What’s left for each PL club? ]

FIFA has said the U.S.-based law firm, whose hiring helped add $30 million to its published legal costs in 2015, is key to helping retain its institutional status as a victim of corruption and not an accomplice.

“FIFA understands and has agreed that the reports will also be made available to the U.S. authorities,” FIFA said in a statement.

In a case identified with former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the FIFA-commissioned reports will arrive at the U.S. Department of Justice and Brooklyn federal prosecution under new leaders in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Switzerland attorney general Michael Lauber remains in control of his office’s investigation, which already opened proceedings for suspected criminal mismanagement against former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his former right-hand man, Jerome Valcke.

[ MORE: Crew, ‘Caps swap Tchani, Manneh ]

Blatter and Valcke, FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general since 2007, were both suspended from office in September 2015 and later banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee.

It is unclear which other senior FIFA staffers or soccer federation leaders worldwide could be implicated and ultimately indicted on the basis of the investigation reports.

In an interim finding last year, FIFA accused Blatter, Valcke and long-time finance director Markus Kattner of self-dealing in agreeing to each others’ contracted salaries and World Cup bonuses totaling $80 million. FIFA fired Kattner last May.

In the documents, FIFA does not make a judgment on which individuals could or should be prosecuted, according to a person briefed on the contents. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the reports are confidential, also said some key witnesses refused to speak.

Still, Lauber’s office has “acknowledged FIFA’s close and consistent cooperation,” FIFA said in its statement.

Lauber is also key to sealing the contents of FIFA’s more than 1,300 report pages and more than 20,000 pages of evidence to preserve the integrity of his team’s investigation.

[ MORE: FIFA announces World Cup expansion details ]

The Swiss lawyer’s office criticized the German soccer federation last year when it released in full a 361-page report into suspected corruption linked to organizing the 2006 World Cup. By publishing so much evidence, the “risk of collusion” by suspects, including soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, was increased, the Swiss federal department said then.

The Swiss investigation of Germany’s World Cup organizers spun off the broader FIFA case, which was formally launched in Switzerland in November 2014. Then, Blatter and FIFA ethics committee judges sent Lauber reports from an investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests led by former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia.

Swiss prosecutors have examined at least 172 suspected money-laundering transactions through Swiss banks in a case that Lauber’s office has said proceedings could take up to five years.

The U.S. case was launched years earlier and had a first star witness in former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, the most senior American in world soccer during Blatter’s presidency. Blazer ran CONCACAF, the North American soccer body, from apartments in Trump Tower in Manhattan and rarely filed tax returns.

U.S. federal authorities have indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 soccer and marketing executives, and marketing agencies, including several former FIFA vice presidents from the Americas.

The case mostly involves bribery linked to regional tournaments and World Cup qualifying games in Latin America, plus a direct link to FIFA in payments totaling $10 million through its accounts, signed off by Valcke in 2008.

Prosecutors using Blazer’s testimony allege the money was bribes funneled from South African organizers of the 2010 World Cup in exchange for hosting votes from CONCACAF delegates on the FIFA executive committee.

Forfeits totaling more than $200 million have been agreed to by people who admitted guilt to U.S. authorities.

FIFA last year made a restitution claim for a share of the money, including for enforced legal costs, based on “harm to its business relationships, reputation and intangible property.”

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE