Brazil’s upper house has voted to launch a congressional inquiry into corruption allegations relating to the country’s football federation and its hosting of the 2014 World Cup.
The move comes as Brazil’s federal police launch a parallel investigation into charges brought by the US against officials of Fifa, football’s global organising body, who include a former head of the Brazilian federation, José Maria Marin.
“With the passage of the days, numerous scandals involving the realisation of football championships in [the Americas] will be revealed,” tweeted Romário, the former Brazilian World Cup star who is now a senator and the main protagonist behind the inquiry.
The Brazilian Senate and police inquiries reflect the widening global fallout from the indictment by the US Department of Justice last week of 14 men, three of them Brazilians, on corruption-related charges involving Fifa tournaments.
In the UK, the banks HSBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays — all named in the US indictments as channels for allegedly corrupt payments to Fifa — were reported to have begun internal reviews to look at the transactions as the fallout from last week’s arrests continued to reverberate through the footballing world. Barclays and HSBC did not comment on the matter, while Standard Chartered said it was looking at two payments mentioned in the indictments.
Brazil’s Senate inquiry will mark the first attempt to probe the country’s hosting of the 2014 Fifa World Cup and its dress-rehearsal event, the 2013 Fifa Confederations Cup, and will help create political support for the parallel police inquiries.
Any findings of corruption in Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup could prove politically explosive for the ruling coalition, led by the Workers’ party (or PT), whose former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva championed the country’s winning bid for the event.
Numerous scandals involving the realisation of football championships in [the Americas] will be revealed
– Romário, senator and former World Cup star
The public expense of hosting the tournament generated mass protests in 2013.
Successive leaders of Brazil’s football federation, the CBF, have been accused of corruption, but the charges have rarely been made to stick.
However, in the case launched by the US last week, the former CBF president and serving Fifa official Mr Marin was one of seven Fifa officials arrested by Swiss police at a hotel in Zurich for possible extradition to the US.
Romário, in a speech to the Senate supporting the congressional inquiry, said the US Fifa investigation had created a chance to crack open the underworld of domestic football.
“Marin is under arrest and this is an opportune moment for us to conduct a sweeping inquest into the CBF,” he said.
The launch of the Senate inquiry also follows a police raid last week on an office in Rio de Janeiro of Klefer, a sports-marketing company, that was carried out at the request of US investigators.
While Klefer is not named in the indictments, it is a business associate of the Traffic Group, controlled by the Brazilian sports marketing businessman José Hawilla, a key witness in the US Fifa investigation.
Mr Hawilla, who has already pleaded guilty in the case, played a central role in the scandal with his company Traffic allegedly paying millions of dollars of bribes to gain access to the television and other rights for football tournaments throughout Latin America.
Traffic Group and Klefer, controlled by the Brazilian businessman Kleber Leite, shared rights to Brazil’s domestic Copa do Brasil tournament, which is mentioned in the indictment as one in which bribes were paid.
Mr Leite, who has not been named or accused of any crime, said he was co-operating with authorities and vigorously denied any wrongdoing.