Julius Baer is in “advanced discussions” with the US Department of Justice to resolve allegations in a money laundering and corruption case linked to international football’s governing body Fifa, in a step towards drawing a line under the scandal for the Swiss bank.

The Zurich-based group said in a statement on Wednesday that the talks may result in a payment of tens of millions of dollars to the DoJ.

Since becoming chief executive last year, Philipp Rickenbacher has sought to distance Julius Baer from the regulatory probes that have dogged the group in recent years. He has also tried to move the private bank away from asset gathering, instead focusing on its most profitable clients.

The Fifa case relates to Jorge Luis Arzuaga, an Argentine who worked for Julius Baer, who pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, in 2017 to facilitating payments from a sports marketing company to Fifa officials.

The DoJ-led investigation into Fifa came to a head in 2015 and led to the resignation of Sepp Blatter, Fifa’s longtime president.

In February Swiss market regulator Finma banned Julius Baer from making large acquisitions as part of a set of sanctions for its shortcomings in the fight against money laundering.

Those related to alleged cases of corruption between 2009 and 2018, linked to Fifa and also Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), a state-owned oil and natural gas group.

A German banker who worked for Julius Baer in Panama pleaded guilty in 2018 in the US to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with PDVSA funds.

The announcement came as the bank said that at a shareholder meeting on November 2 it will propose paying out the second tranche of its 2019 dividend, which it split out of caution amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rival Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse have also indicated they intend to restart dividend payments this year, with UBS suggesting it may even resume share buybacks.

Other European banks are unlikely to pay dividends until next year after the European Central Bank urged the lenders to freeze payments until January at the earliest.

Shares in Julius Baer were flat on Wednesday.

The bank said that it was seeking the resolution of legacy regulatory and legal matters and that it has co-operated on the case since 2015.

The football governing body, which hopes to redistribute the funds to its members, said: “Fifa is seeking restitution of monies which were stolen in those dark years and which have in certain cases (notably in the USA) been seized by the authorities.”


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