Former FIFA judge Damiani caught up in Argentine probe into Swiss money laundering

By Paul Nicholson

September 1 – Argentine investigations into corruption and money laundering by former President Néstor Kirchner between 2003 and 2008 look set to touch on FIFA and at least one of its former officials, as well football investments within the Swiss market.

Uruguayan Juan Damiani (pictured), a former FIFA’s ethics committee judge, stepped down in April after he and his law firm were found to have provided assistance for at least seven offshore companies linked to disgraced fellow Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo, a former FIFA vice-president and one of the original Zurich Seven arrested last May as part of the US inquiry into wire fraud and money laundering that brought FIFA to its knees.

The revelations of his offshore business dealings were exposed in the Panama Papers tax haven leak. Damiani is under investigation by ethics prosecutors after being identified in the vast leak of data from the files of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian firm specialising in tax avoidance schemes.

But it appears Damiani may be linked to a far more serious investigation being carried out by the Argentine justice authorities who are seeking to repatriate funds of more than $32 million believed to be in Swiss banks. The Argentines, according to Swiss newspaper Handelszeitung, have asked for bank account details for Argentine construction magnate Lázaro Báez and Néstor Ramos, who is believed to have received investment funds from Báez in his Swiss-based Helvetic Services Group.

Argentine prosecutors say that they can trace money flowing from Helvetic Services Group to Damiani. Whether Damiani was only involved with Helvetic Services Group in a legal advisory capacity or in a business investment role is unclear. But the suspicion is that Helvetic Services Group was used to launder the Argentine money.

Helvetic Services Group has various associates involved in football activity within Switzerland.

Ramos is believed to be the mastermind behind 150 front companies in tax havens worldwide which Argentine prosecutors suspect have been used for large-scale illegal tax avoidance.

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