Israel's Hapoalim Among Banks Cited in FIFA Indictment

Israeli lender was allegedly used to transfer illicit funds in 2013, U.S. prosecutors say.

Efrat Neuman
Efrat Neuman
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A branch of Bank Hapoalim, whose fourth-quarter 2013 profits beat expectations.
A branch of Bank Hapoalim, whose fourth-quarter 2013 profits beat expectations.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkowitz
Efrat Neuman
Efrat Neuman

Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s biggest lender, was one of many banks cited by the U.S. Justice Department in its indictment of FIFA soccer officials last week as having been used to make bribery payments.

Hapoalim’s Swiss branch in Zurich was mentioned six times in the 164-page indictment as having been a conduit for transferring funds in 2013 through two different accounts, one belonging to the Datisa group and one belonging to Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, in the name of a Panamanian company.

Datisa, according to the indictment of 14 FIFA global soccer federation officials, controlled three separate marketing businesses that allegedly obtained rights to Copa America, a tournament featuring South American teams in exchange for a $110 million payment to FIFA officials. Hugo and Mariano Jinkis are principals of Full Play, another sports media and marketing business headquartered in Argentina that played a central role in the FIFA affair, according to the indictment.

The banks named in the indictment have not been charged with anything, but Kelly Currie, the acting United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, told reporters they were being probed to determine whether any executives were aware that they were abetting money laundering and bribery. Money involved in the two-decade-old bribery scheme passed through some of Ameriva’s biggest banks, including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.

“Part of our investigation will look at the conduct of the financial institutions to see whether they were cognizant of the fact they were helping launder these bribe payments,” Vurie said. “It’s too early to say whether there is any problematic behavior, but it will be part of our investigation,” she said.

Hapoalim responded that in the indictment filed against FIFA officials there were no claims made against it. “The bank operated and continues to operate in accordance with the law,” Hapoalim said in a statement.

The indictment doesn’t signal whether the government believes the FIFA-related money transfers should have raised alarms or whether banks alerted the government. But under U.S. law, banks are required to ensure their clients aren’t using accounts for criminal activities. They are responsible for knowing who their clients are and having an idea of the source of their funds.

The U.S. Justice Department unveiled the charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracy against officials from the Federation Internationale de Football Association and sports marketing executives last Wednesday.

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