Posts Tagged ‘Fifa’

‘Fortnite’ rival wins 10 million gamers in three days

February 9, 2019

A game developed by Electronics Arts Inc as a competitor to the wildly popular “Fortnite” has signed up 10 million players within three days of its launch, the videogame maker said, driving its shares up 16 percent on Friday.

With “Apex Legends,” EA is hoping to reproduce the success of “Fortnite,” a sort of hybrid of “The Hunger Games” and “Minecraft” that drops 100 people onto an island to fight each other for survival.

The number of gamers playing “Apex Legends” had crossed 10 million and there were about 1 million gamers logged on at the same time, EA said late on Thursday. As of Friday, the game was the most viewed on gaming live-streaming network Twitch.

Image result for Apex Legends, pictures

The figures come just days after EA lowered its yearly revenue projections following weak sales of its “Battlefield V” title, news that had sent its stock plunging 18 percent.

EA owns iconic gaming franchises such as “FIFA,” “Need for Speed” and “Battlefield,” but the rapid rise last year of free-to-play online games like “Fortnite” and “PUBG” are forcing the company and its industry peers Activision-Blizzard and Take-Two to sit up and take notice.

“Fortnite” and “PUBG,” each backed by Chinese internet giant Tencent, are credited with helping take gaming to new audiences and popularizing the battle royale format, where dozens of online players battle each other to the death.

EA said on Tuesday its decision not to release a battle royale version of “Battlefield V” was one reason why it sold some one million fewer units than expected in the final quarter of 2018.

Videogame review website Eurogamer said it had taken Fortnite about two weeks to hit the 10-million-player mark.

Wall Street analysts covering EA were optimistic about “Apex Legends” but said it was too early to tell if it could become the next “Fortnite.”

“It’s an impressive number and a great start to a new cornerstone property for EA — something the company needs following a string of missteps with its non-sports franchises,” said Oppenheimer & Co analyst Andrew Uerkwitz.

Analysts also said posts by influential gamers such as “Ninja,” the most followed streamer on Twitch, had helped bring more attention to the game.

“Apex Legends” could add $100 million to EA’s revenue in the fiscal year ending March 2020, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

“That figure is based upon our rule of thumb that free-to-play games typically generate around $10 per monthly active user per year,” he said.

EA has forecast about $4.75 billion in adjusted revenue for fiscal year 2019.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar



Basis for FBI Probe On Trump? Slim to None (That we know of)

June 1, 2018

His story about the Papadopoulos meeting calls the FBI’s into question.

The Curious Case of Mr. Downer

High Commissioner of Australia to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer arrives at Downing Street in central London on March 22, 2017.
High Commissioner of Australia to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer arrives at Downing Street in central London on March 22, 2017.PHOTO: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES


To hear the Federal Bureau of Investigation tell it, its decision to launch a counterintelligence probe into a major-party presidential campaign comes down to a foreign tip about a 28-year-old fourth-tier Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The FBI’s media scribes have dutifully reported the bare facts of that “intel.” We are told the infamous tip came from Alexander Downer, at the time the Australian ambassador to the U.K. Mr. Downer invited Mr. Papadopoulos for a drink in early May 2016, where the aide told the ambassador the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Word of this encounter at some point reached the FBI, inspiring it to launch its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign on July 31.

Notably (nay, suspiciously) absent or muddled are the details of how and when that information made its way to the FBI, and what exactly was transmitted. A December 2017 New York Times story vaguely explains that the Australians passed the info to “American counterparts” about “two months later,” and that once it “reached the FBI,” the bureau acted. Even the Times admits it’s “not clear” why it took the Aussies so long to flip such a supposedly smoking tip. The story meanwhile slyly leads readers to believe that Mr. Papadopoulos told Mr. Downer that Moscow had “thousands of emails,” but read it closely and the Times in fact never specifies what the Trump aide said, beyond “dirt.”

When Mr. Downer ended his service in the U.K. this April, he sat for an interview with the Australian, a national newspaper, and “spoke for the first time” about the Papadopoulos event. Mr. Downer said he officially reported the Papadopoulos meeting back to Australia “the following day or a day or two after,” as it “seemed quite interesting.” The story nonchalantly notes that “after a period of time, Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, passed the information on to Washington.”

My reporting indicates otherwise. A diplomatic source tells me Mr. Hockey neither transmitted any information to the FBI nor was approached by the U.S. about the tip. Rather, it was Mr. Downer who at some point decided to convey his information—to the U.S. Embassy in London.

That matters because it is not how things are normally done. The U.S. is part of Five Eyes, an intelligence network that includes the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Five Eyes agreement provides that any intelligence goes through the intelligence system of the country that gathered it. This helps guarantee information is securely handled, subjected to quality control, and not made prey to political manipulation. Mr. Downer’s job was to report his meeting back to Canberra, and leave it to Australian intelligence. We also know that it wasn’t Australian intelligence that alerted the FBI. The document that launched the FBI probe contains no foreign intelligence whatsoever. So if Australian intelligence did receive the Downer info, it didn’t feel compelled to act on it.

But the Obama State Department did—and its involvement is news. The Downer details landed with the embassy’s then-chargé d’affaires, Elizabeth Dibble, who previously served as a principal deputy assistant secretary in Mrs. Clinton’s State Department.

When did all this happen, and what came next? Did the info go straight to U.S. intelligence? Or did it instead filter to the wider State Department team, who we already know were helping foment Russia-Trump conspiracy theories? Jonathan Winer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, has publicly admitted to communicating in the summer of 2016 with his friend Christopher Steele, author of the infamous dossier.

I was unable to reach Mr. Downer for comment and do not know why he chose to go to the embassy. A conservative politician, he was Australia’s longest-serving foreign minister (1996-2007). Sources speculate that he might have felt his many contacts justified reaching out himself.

Meanwhile, something doesn’t gel between Mr. Downer’s account of the conversation and the FBI’s. In his Australian interview, Mr. Downer said Mr. Papadopolous didn’t give specifics. “He didn’t say dirt, he said material that could be damaging to her,” said Mr. Downer. “He didn’t say what it was.” Also: “Nothing he said in that conversation indicated Trump himself had been conspiring with the Russians to collect information on Hillary Clinton.”

For months we’ve been told the FBI acted because it was alarmed that Mr. Papadopoulos knew about those hacked Democratic emails in May, before they became public in June. But according to the tipster himself, Mr. Papadopoulos said nothing about emails. The FBI instead received a report that a far-removed campaign adviser, over drinks, said the Russians had something that might be “damaging” to Hillary. Did this vague statement justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?

Unlikely. Which leads us back to what did inspire the FBI to act, and when? The Papadopoulos pretext is getting thinner.

World Cup 2022: Increasing chance of Qatar losing the tournament because of ‘political risks’, report finds

October 6, 2017

The Independent

The new report investigates the political crisis between Qatar and its neighbouring countries and concludes the nation is under ‘increasing risk’ of losing the tournament


The controversial 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar is under increasing risk of being moved to another nation because of “political risks”, according to a confidential new report examining the multitude of risks surrounding the tournament.

Fifa handed the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010. It will be the first World Cup ever to be held in the Middle East and the first not to be held in June or July, with the tournament instead scheduled for late November until mid-December because of the high temperature.

However, numerous accusations of corruption have been made relating to how Qatar won the rights to stage the event. And in June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) all cut ties with the Gulf state, alleging it was destabilising the Middle East by supporting terrorism.

The new report into the tournament, compiled by management consultants Cornerstone Global and obtained by the BBC, investigates the impact of this diplomatic crisis as well as the current infrastructure project underway in the country to develop 12 stadiums in the time for 2022.

It claims that the country’s £153bn programme is a “high-risk project”, before concluding that it is “far from certain” Doha will host the tournament.

“Western diplomats have privately stated they do not know whether or not the tournament will take place as planned,” the report reads.

The World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010 (Getty)

“The reasons for this are many and include open allegations of corruption – both in the bidding process and in the infrastructure development.

“Qatar is under greater pressure regarding its hosting of the tournament… the current political crisis has seen – or at least raised the possibility of – a Qatari opposition movement emerging.

“This means an increased risk for those working on, or seeking contracts for World Cup 2022 infrastructure… with a risk of non-payment and no realistic ability to enforce any legal contracts.

“Given the current political situation… it is certainly possible that the tournament will not be held in Qatar.”

Qatar has hit out at the report’s ‘anonymous sources’ (Getty)

However, the report has been dismissed by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, who claimed in a statement published in response to the BBC that there is “absolutely no risk” of the World Cup being taken away from Qatar.

“In the context of the current political situation we question the motives of an organisation – which makes no secret of its affiliation to the countries blockading Qatar – of publishing a report based entirely on media reports and anonymous sources,” their statement read.

“The intention to create doubt regarding the tournament, while attempting to cause resentment amongst Qatari citizens and anxiety amongst foreign businesses and residents, is as transparent as it is laughable.

“There is absolutely no risk to the future of the first World Cup in the Middle East.”

Thousands of Qatar World Cup workers ‘subject to life-threatening heat’ — Blockading nations critical of Qatar on human rights grounds….

September 27, 2017

The Guardian

Tuesday 26 September 2017 

Image may contain: one or more people and people standingQatar’s Supreme Committee opened Khalifa International Stadium, the first completed 2022 World Cup venue, in May 2017. Photograph: Neville Hopwood/Getty Images for Qatar 2022

Many thousands of migrant workers on construction sites in Qatar, including those building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup, are being subjected to potentially life-threatening heat and humidity, according to new research on the extreme summer conditions in the Gulf. Hundreds of workers are dying every year, the campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a strong statement, but they claim that the Qatar authorities have refused to make necessary information public or adequately investigate the deaths, which could be caused by labouring in the region’s fierce climate.

HRW argues that millions of workers are in jeopardy, including those in the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – because statutory work breaks imposed during summer midday hours do not protect them sufficiently. An analysis of the weather in Doha last summer has also shown that workers on World Cup construction projects were in danger, despite the more advanced system used by the tournament organiser, Humidex, which measures safety levels of heat and humidity.

“Enforcing appropriate restrictions on outdoor work and regularly investigating and publicising information about worker deaths is essential to protect the health and lives of construction workers in Qatar,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said. “Limiting work hours to safe temperatures, not set by a clock or calendar, is well within the capacity of the Qatari government and will help protect hundreds of thousands of workers.”

In 2012, the Qatari government revealed 520 people from Bangladesh, India and Nepal – whose citizens travel in their hundreds of thousands to do construction work in the Gulf – had died. Of these, 385, or almost three-quarters, had died “from causes that the authorities neither explained nor investigated”, HRW said. Last year the Qatari government told HRW that 35 workers died, “mostly from falls, presumably at construction sites”, but this did not take into account hundreds more people who died from heart attacks and other “natural causes”, patchily reported by their countries’ embassies and unexplained by the authorities.

The “Supreme Committee” organising the 2022 World Cup, which Fifa originally voted in 2010 could be played in the summer but has since been moved to winter, is striving to enact higher welfare standards than those generally applied for the two million migrant workers in Qatar. It has disclosed that 10 workers on World Cup projects died between October 2015 and July this year, classifying eight of these, three of them men in their 20s, as “non-work related” because they resulted from cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. HRW argues that these classifications are meaningless, effectively only a statement that the person has died because their heart and breathing stopped.

HRW said in its statement that such descriptions “obscure the underlying cause of deaths and make it impossible to determine whether [the workers’ deaths] may be related to working conditions, such as heat stress.”

One World Cup construction worker who died, Jaleshwar Prasad, 48, was stated by the Supreme Committee to have suffered cardiac arrest, with the hospital reporting that “work duties were not a contributory factor”. The temperature in Qatar the day before Prasad died, 26 April 2016, peaked at 39C, HRW said.

Nicholas McGeehan, who carried out the research for HRW, accused the Qatari government and the Supreme Committee of a “wilful abdication of responsibility” for the health and safety of workers.

“Their heat protection system is inappropriate and data shows that its enforcement is seriously deficient,” McGeehan said. “That means they are putting stadium workers’ lives at risk.”

Outdoor workers generally in Qatar must not be made to work between 11.30am and 3pm from 15 June to 31 August, according to a government decree issued in 2007. HRW describes that measure, which it said is broadly reproduced by the other GCC countries, as “rudimentary” because it does not relate breaks to the actual working conditions outside those hours.

Analysis of the UK Meteorological Office climate record for Doha last year, seen by the Guardian, showed that according to the Humidex measure, it was not safe for an acclimatised person to do even moderately strenuous work outside, for 1,176 hours, including night time. The statutory government break added up to only 273 hours last summer, while the Supreme Committee, using the Humidex system, said that it imposed only an additional 150 hours of breaks to that government total.

HRW has called on the Qatari and other Gulf country authorities, including the Supreme Committee, to use a different heat stress measure, the wet bulb global temperature (WBGT), which also takes sunlight into account, to avoid “potentially fatal heat-related illnesses.”

The extreme climate in the Gulf, measured against the WBGT and the Humidex system, makes working at almost any time of day or night in July, August and the first half of September dangerous, McGeehan said.

Approximately two million immigrants do the overwhelming bulk of manual work in Qatar, where the indigenous population, the world’s wealthiest on average due to the country’s vast reserves of natural gas, numbers only around 300,000. Approximately 800,000 men from the poorer south Asian countries work on the country’s huge construction projects, including 12,000, expected to rise to 35,000, building the World Cup stadiums. During the hot months, migrant workers are frequently the only people seen spending any extended time outside the country’s air-conditioned buildings and vehicles.

The HRW statement criticises the Qatari government for failing to implement the recommendations of a 2014 report by the law firm DLA Piper, which the government itself commissioned. The report followed an international outcry over the number of workers dying in Qatar just as the massive new infrastructure programme was being commissioned.

It noted that the number of deaths in Qatar attributed to cardiac arrest was “seemingly high” and called for transparent publication and investigation, including a legal reform to permit postmortem examinations in cases of sudden deaths. That recommendation has also not been implemented and legal constraints continue. HRW argues that this has prevented inquiries being conducted into how workers are dying and adequate measures being put in place to protect their health and safety.

“We need data on deaths, new laws on heat protection and immediate investigations, otherwise the death toll will continue to rise,” McGeehan said.

The Supreme Committee sent the Guardian a detailed explanation of how its breaks system works using the Humidex measure, and of the restrictions on postmortems in Qatar, but has not yet responded to the criticisms.

A spokesman for the Qatari government said it is committed to labour reforms, and confirmed that it did make public last year deaths and injuries that were “work-related”.

“The government investigates all migrant worker deaths in Qatar and coordinates with the embassies of labour-sending countries to repatriate the deceased,” the spokesman said.

The Gulf Crisis: Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, Corruption Become an Issue

August 5, 2017

By James M. Dorsey

French investigation into possible corruption in business deals related to Qatar’s winning of World Cup hosting rights moved the 2022 tournament a step closer to becoming enmeshed in the two- month-old Gulf crisis.

Taken together with the almost simultaneous announcement of the milestone transfer to Qatar-owned French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) of Brazilian star Neymar, the two events highlight Qatar’s perennial difficulty in capitalizing on its massive investment in sports as part of its public diplomacy and soft power strategy.

The investigation casts a shadow on Mr. Neymar’s transfer from FC Barcelona at a record-breaking cost of $260 million as a demonstration of Qatar’s ability to resist the two-month old UAE-Saudi-led diplomatic and economic boycott of the Gulf state; move ahead with its infrastructure plans, including World Cup-related projects; and continue to heavily invest in a multi-pronged soft power ploy of which sports is a key pillar.

The investigation links former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to millions of euros involved in business deals that were allegedly part of a three-way deal to ensure French support for Qatar’s World Cup bid as well as the vote of one-time French star Michel Platini, who headed European soccer body UEFA and was a member of FIFA’s executive committee before being banned from involvement in soccer on corruption charges.

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Qatar is already ready for the World Cup. Getty Images

Qatar’s successful World Cup bid has been mired in controversy from day one. Allegations of wrongdoing in the bid, enhanced by FIFA’s multiple corruption scandals that have rocked the world body for the past seven years, and criticism of the Gulf state’s controversial labour regime that have been revived by the Gulf crisis, meshed with Eurocentric assertions. Eurocentric critics charged that Qatar did not deserve to host the World Cup because it was too small, boasted temperatures not conducive to performance, and had no soccer legacy.

The criticism of Qatar, although never convincingly countered by the Gulf state, had largely faded into the background until June when a UAE-Saudi-led diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar raised questions of Qatar’s ability to move ahead with preparations for the tournament. The questions were fuelled by feeble attempts by Qatar’s detractors to revive the criticism and suggest that it should be deprived of its hosting rights.

Qatar, while denying any wrongdoing in its bid, has taken several steps to counter criticism of its controversial kafala or labour sponsorship regime, including becoming the only Gulf state to engage with its critics, and legal reforms that were welcomed by human rights groups and trade unions, but deemed not far-reaching enough.

Qatar faces a crucial hearing in November by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that will serve as barometer of the Gulf state’s response to the criticism of the living and working conditions of migrant workers, who constitute the majority of its population. The ILO’s conclusion is likely to take on added significance against the backdrop of the Gulf crisis. Human rights groups have argued that the crisis offers Qatar an opportunity to secure a moral high ground by abolishing rather than reforming the kafala system.

Qatar, in a move designed to reassure expatriates and project itself as being in the forefront of labour reform, said earlier this month that it would offer permanent residence to a select group of expatriates. The offer that does not apply to the vast majority of migrant workers is unlikely to deflect the criticism.

Alongside the looming revival of attention on labour, the French investigation revives the focus on the integrity of the Qatari World Cup bid that already is the subject of a Swiss enquiry and looms large on the background of the indictment on corruption charges in the United States of numerous FIFA officials.

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Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

France’s interference in the FIFA vote on the Qatari World Cup bid was documented in a lengthy expose in French soccer magazine France Football. The magazine detailed a meeting engineered by then president Sarkozy in 2010 between Mr. Platini, then Qatari crown prince and current emir Sheikh Tamim bin Haman Al-Thani, and a representative of PSG. The three-way deal cut at that meeting allegedly involved Mr. Platini agreeing to vote for the Qatari bid in exchange for Qatar acquiring the French club, creating a French sports television channel, and investing in France.

Britain’s The Daily Telegraph reported that French investigators were examining whether Mr. Sarkozy may have received funds from deals linked to the 2010 meeting, including the sale to Qatar of a five percent stake in French water management company Veolia as well as the purchase in 2010 of PSG by Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, believed to be a Qatari government investment vehicle.

The British paper, quoting French sources, reported that €182 million “may have been siphoned off the side lines” of the deals and also used for payments to World Cup officials. A spokeswoman for the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office in Paris said they were “carrying out two separate preliminary inquiries” into Veolia and the World Cup bid. She said there was no established link between the two inquiries and Mr. Sarkozy was not “formally and personally targeted at this stage.”

The investigation coupled with the revival of the labour issue and the looming ILO hearing moves Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup into the firing line in the Gulf crisis. Qatar was so far able to deflect concern that the crisis would affect its ability to host the tournament because it would take place 5.5 years from now by which time the crisis would have long been resolved, and that it was able to move ahead with preparations despite a rise in the cost of construction materials because of the UAE-Saudi-led boycott.

The French investigation and the labour issue, however, opens opportunity for a new line of attack. Perhaps, a silver lining for Qatar in the looming battle over its World Cup hosting rights is the fact that this line of attack, like much else in the Gulf crisis, would have a pot-blames-the-kettle character. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf states have labour regimes like that of Qatar.

US intelligence officials have asserted that the UAE engineered the Gulf crisis by orchestrating the hacking of a Qatari government website that created the excuse of the boycott of the Gulf state.

Much of the sabre-rattling in the Gulf crisis focuses on influencing policymakers and international public opinion with efforts to resolve the crisis stalemated and the international community unwilling to support the anti-Qatar alliance’s demands that target the Gulf state’s sovereignty and ability to chart its own independent course. The emergence of the World Cup as a new battleground offers Qatar an opportunity to grab the bull by the horns. It’s an opportunity Qatar has so far availed itself only half-heartedly.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and four forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa as well as The Gulf Crisis: Small States Battle It Out, Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.


Qatar could still be stripped of World Cup 2022 over corruption claims, say MPs

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

 Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech after being defeated in his attempt to contest the 2017 presidential elections. CREDIT: IAN LANGSDON

FIFA Ethics Judge Damiani Resigns While Under Suspicion — Panama Papers

April 6, 2016

The Associated Press

GENEVA — Under suspicion in the fallout from the global offshore accounts investigation, Uruguayan lawyer Juan Pedro Damiani resigned as a FIFA ethics judge on Wednesday.

Damiani was already under investigation by FIFA ethics prosecutors after being identified on Sunday in a vast leak of data from a Panama law firm specializing in tax avoidance schemes which can be exploited for money laundering.

His exit, after helping to ban former FIFA president Sepp Blatter from soccer last December, damages the scandal-hit world soccer body’s efforts to rebuild its image and reputation under new leadership.

Damiani’s formal resignation from the FIFA court was confirmed in a statement from the judging chamber without giving details.

The Penarol club president’s links to disgraced former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo were the center of the case against him.

Damiani did not tell the FIFA ethics committee until March that he and his family’s law firm had a “business relationship” with Figueredo, a fellow Uruguayan who had been arrested in Zurich almost 10 months earlier.

Figueredo was indicted by American federal prosecutors investigating corruption in world soccer and later extradited to Uruguay. He has pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges and acknowledged taking bribes.

On Sunday, Damiani was named in international media reports for his law firm’s links to Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. He is alleged to have helped create offshore accounts and companies for three clients who have been indicted in the sprawling FIFA bribery investigation led by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.

As well as Figueredo, marketing executives Hugo and Mariano Jinkis — a father and son from Argentina — are suspected of paying millions of dollars in bribes linked to acquiring broadcast rights for continental competitions, including the Copa America.

The Jinkis connection has also drawn new FIFA President Gianni Infantino into the reports, though he is not suspected of wrongdoing. As UEFA legal director in 2006, Infantino co-signed a contract selling Champions League TV rights for Ecuador to a subsidiary of the Jinkis-owned Full Play company.

On Wednesday, UEFA offices in Switzerland were raided by federal police to seize documents relating to the rights deal.

Switzerland’s attorney general is leading a widening investigation of FIFA, and now UEFA, business which includes suspected undervalued sales of TV rights. Criminal proceedings against Blatter were opened last September.

In 2006, Blatter helped appoint Damiani as a member of a revamped FIFA ethics committee.

Damiani also followed his father into football, succeeding him as president of Uruguay’s 49-time champion Penarol.

Last week, Damiani hosted Infantino at the club and presented him with a personalized yellow and black-striped team shirt.

Panama Papers: Governments Face Fallout From Offshore Accounts Report

April 5, 2016

APRIL 5, 2016, 9:21 AM E.D.T.

FRANKFURT, Germany — Governments around the world tried Tuesday to contain the fallout from the publication of thousands of names of rich and powerful people who conducted offshore financial activity through a Panamanian law firm.

China dismissed as “groundless” reports that relatives of current and retired politicians, including President Xi Jinping, own offshore companies.

The state media are ignoring the reports, and search results for the words “Panama documents” have been blocked on websites and social media.

Iceland’s prime minister has vowed to not resign despite thousands of angry protesters demanded he step down and call new elections. The leaks showed possible links to an offshore company that could represent a serious conflict of interest.

And Ukraine’s president was accused of abusing his office and of tax evasion by moving his candy business offshore, possibly depriving the country of millions of dollars in taxes.

The reports are from a global group of news organizations working with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. They have been processing the legal records from the Mossack Fonseca law firm that were first leaked to the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Shell companies aren’t by themselves illegal. People or companies might use them to reduce their tax bill legally, by benefiting from low tax rates in countries like Panama, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. But the practice is frowned upon, particularly when used by politicians, who then face criticism for not contributing to their own countries’ economies.

Because offshore accounts and companies also hide the names of the ultimate owners of investments, they can be used to illegally evade taxes or launder money.

Mossack Fonseca says it obeys all laws relating to company registrations and does not advise people how to evade taxes.

The firm said in a statement that “our industry is not particularly well understood by the public, and unfortunately this series of articles will only serve to deepen that confusion.

“The facts are these: while we may have been the victim of a data breach, nothing in this illegally obtained cache of documents suggests we’ve done anything wrong or illegal, and that’s very much in keeping with the global reputation we’ve worked hard to build over the past 40 years of doing business the right way. “

Members of the Group of 20 — which includes China — have agreed on paper to tighten laws relating to shell companies and make sure authorities can find out who the real owners are. Actual legislation at the national level has lagged behind the promises, however.

The appearance of offshore accounts in political scandals is far from new. Shell companies played a role in the corruption scandal involving the Petrobras oil company in Brazil. The U.S. Justice Department said in an indictment last year that offshore accounts were used to mask the transfer of bribes to officials at FIFA, the global soccer federation.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he would not discuss the reports further and declined to say whether the individuals named would be investigated.

“For these groundless accusations, I have no comment,” Hong told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, working with NDR and WDR public television, reported Monday that 14 German banks had used Mossack Fonseca’s services to set up 1,200 letterbox companies for clients.

The report said use of offshore company registrations had spiked after the European Union introduced regulations in 2005 requiring countries to exchange tax information on physical persons, but not for companies. Many of the accounts, however, have since been closed.

The EU has since tightened its rules on offshore companies under its Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which is being phased in as national governments pass local laws to comply by June 26, 2017. The new rules tighten requirements for companies to keep accurate information on their real owners and to make that available to authorities.

Hong Kong Sports Fans Continue To Boo China’s National Anthem

October 6, 2015


Hong Kong fans at the World Cup qualifying match between Hong Kong and Qatar, in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) has been fined $40,000 Hong Kong dollars ($5,160; £3,400) by Fifa after its fans booed the Chinese national anthem during a match last month.

An object was also thrown onto the pitch during the World Cup qualifier against Qatar.

Fifa, football’s governing body, previously warned the HKFA over booing.

The anthem has been shared by Hong Kong and mainland China since the former returned to Beijing’s control in 1997.

But anti-Beijing feeling has increased in Hong Kong in the wake of large protests last year against central government plans to impose candidate lists for elections in the territory.

Qatar-Hong Kong football match on 8 September
The booing was apparently directed at Beijing’s political control rather than the team’s poor performance – they lost the Qatar game 2-3. AFP, Getty

Noting that the object thrown onto the pitch, thought to have been a carton of lemon tea, was an aggravating factor in the punishment, spokeswoman for the HKFA Sarah Lee said: “We will try our best to avoid such incidents in future.”

“We don’t plan to punish fans. What we’ll focus on is to encourage them not to boo,” Ms Lee added, stressing that the football association wanted to encourage a positive atmosphere in which fans cheered the home team.

A statement by the HKFA said Fifa has warned it that “any further infringements will lead to more severe sanctions,” asking fans to “refrain from such action at all future matches” to avoid additional punishment.

The association previously said that it would be “disappointed” if Fifa punished them for the booing on 8 September, which it later blamed on “a small minority of fans”.

Hong Kong’s next international match is against Myanmar on 7 November, followed by a home game against mainland China on 17 November – likely to be of particular concern to organisers given the tensions involved.

Putin hails Blatter ‘professionalism’ after FIFA re-election — Blatter is Putin’s King of Guy

May 30, 2015


Despite a high-profile corruption scandal, Sepp Blatter reelected as head of football’s governing body. And he’ll always have Vladimir Putin as his friend.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and FIFA President Sepp Blatter sat together to watch the final of the 2014 World Cup in July

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated FIFA boss Sepp Blatter on his re-election as head of football’s governing body, the Kremlin said Saturday, despite a high-profile corruption scandal rocking the game.

“Putin expressed certainty that Blatter’s experience, professionalism and high level of authority will further allow him to spread the geographical reach and popularity of football,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, Russian news agencies reported.

Blatter — who has led FIFA since 1998 — won a fifth term as president on Friday when his challenger Prince Ali withdrew after the first round of voting.

Putin — who is gearing up to host the next World Cup in 2018 — had lashed out at a US probe that saw top FIFA officials dramatically arrested ahead of the vote as an attempt to stop Blatter’s re-election.

Moscow has portrayed the American investigation into FIFA’s alleged mammoth corruption as a ploy aimed at pressuring the organisation into scrapping the World Cup in Russia — which is part of a second investigation but by the Swiss authorities — due to tensions over Ukraine.

In congratulating Blatter, Putin “again pointed out that Russia is interested in cooperating with FIFA in general and in particular over the preparations for the 2018 World Cup,” Peskov said.

Blatter had faced calls from European nations to resign after the end of the presidential campaign was overshadowed by the arrests of seven officials, including two vice presidents, accused by US authorities of taking tens of millions of dollars in bribes.

Most of Europe’s 53 votes went to Prince Ali, along with the United States and Australia. But Blatter’s rockbed support in Africa and Asia saw him through.

A separate Swiss investigation is also currently looking into alleged wrongdoing in the allocation of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 edition to Qatar.

Sepp Blatter re-elected as Fifa president after Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein concedes defeat

May 29, 2015


Sepp Blatter celebrates after his re-election as Fifa president.

Sepp Blatter celebrates after his re-election as Fifa president. Photograph: Michael Buholzer/AFP/Getty Images


It is my congress, I have the right to make the closing remarks. This is a very important congress. You see I am in a good mood. I was a little bit nervous today, but now I am the president of everybody, I am the president of the whole Fifa.

This game is important, but more important, enjoy life!

What a way to sign off. He has truly out Sepp-ed himself there.

Updated at 3.38am AEST

Here is the latest news story: Sepp Blatter re-elected as Fifa president for fifth term.

Sepp Blatter has been officially re-elected as Fifa’s president for a fifth term by the world governing body’s 209 member associations.

Blatter, 79, saw off the challenge of Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein at Fifa’s annual Congress in Zurich. In a secret ballot he was re-elected with 133 votes from the 209 voting members. The process was to go to a second round of voting, after Blatter failed to get the 139 votes needed in the first round to win; a two-thirds majority was necessary. Blatter received 133 votes Prince Ali 73 and three ballots were spoiled. However, Prince Ali conceded before the second round of voting took place – when a simple majority would have been enough for either contender to win.

Blatter now comes to the stage:

I thank you, you have accepted me for the next four years. I will be in command of this boat of Fifa. We will bring it back off shore.”More nautical references!

We need in this committee women. We need ladies.

We won’t touch the World Cup. I am a faithful man, God, Allah, whoever, they will help us to bring back this Fifa. At the end of my (four year) term, I will give Fifa to my successor. It will be robust.

I like you. I like my job. I am not perfect. Nobody is perfect. Together we go. Let’s go Fifa! Let’s go Fifa! [chanting]

Updated at 3.27am AEST

20m ago13:19

Prince Ali makes a brief speech to the crowd.

I just wanted to thank all of you. It’s been a wonderful journey. I want to especially thank all of you who were brave enough to vote for me.

He leaves the stage, and is hugged and embraced by a number of officials, including Michel Platini.