FIFA investigation could take five years - Swiss Attorney General
Swiss officials have told ESPN FC that it will be at least five years before any cases are brought to court from its investigations against suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter and alleged corruption in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland formally opened its investigation into the two World Cups, which will take place in Russia and Qatar respectively, in March 2015, raiding FIFA's Zurich headquarters in May at the same time as the high-profile arrests of seven of the game's leading administrators in the city as part of the FBI inquiry.
Blatter formally came under criminal investigation in September for authorising a two million Swiss Franc payment (£1.3m) to his former advisor Michel Platini for work that was allegedly carried out nine years previously.
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"These are very large and complex investigations and it will take at least five years for them to come to court, if it even comes to that," Andre Marty, spokesman for the OAG, told ESPN FC.
"We are still a long way off from making any decision on formally charging anybody and cannot give a precise time on when this will be. We are only at the stage where we are analysing data and pursuing new lines of inquiry, particularly in relation to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
"We have a large team of people working on both investigations and new avenues are being explored all the time which has led to the opening of sub-investigations. Bringing any cases to court is not going to be quick."
The next two weeks will be some of the most significant in the ongoing FIFA crisis as Blatter and Platini face personal hearings before the organisation's Ethics Committee with a verdict expected before Christmas.
Both men appealed unsuccessfully against their suspensions and there is the possibility that they will face life bans if found guilty.
Marty warned football fans to be patient and said that they should not expect any major announcements from the OAG on its FIFA investigations for the "foreseeable future." He revealed that officials were still analysing 11 terabytes of data that had been seized from FIFA's offices and that suspect bank transactions were being reported to them on a regular basis.
In September, Switzerland's Attorney General Michael Lauber revealed that his organisation was investigating 121 suspicious banking transactions related to its FIFA inquiry. And Marty told ESPN FC that this number has now increased to more than 200.
"Whenever a suspicious transaction is brought to our attention we have to follow it and this is a very time consuming and complicated task," he said. "We know that Mr Blatter is to have his FIFA hearing very soon but Swiss justice cannot move as fast as this."
The Swiss legal system is notoriously bureaucratic and reformers within FIFA are becoming frustrated at the slow pace of the OAG's investigations, particularly in relation to the 2018 World Cup as any criminal proceedings are likely to take place once it is over.
A FIFA source told ESPN FC: "Criminal action should act as a deterrent, to stop future corruption around areas like the World Cup bidding process. What is the point if cases are brought against individuals after Russia 2018 has taken place? This is not the message that we want to send out. The OAG needs to speed up its work."
American authorities have not set any date for full trials of the 14 football officials and marketing executives that were indicted by the U.S Justice Department in May, although some have already appeared in court.
These include two of the seven who have so far been extradited from Switzerland; former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb and Jose Maria Marin, former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation. Both pleaded not guilty to racketeering and bribery charges.
Vivek Chaudhary covers FIFA and the financial side of the game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @viveksport