Scylla and Charybdis were two legendary sea monsters that existed at the Straights of Messina, separating Sicily and the Italian mainland. Scylla was a six-headed sea monster on the Italian side of the strait, which would pick up and destroy individual sailors. Charybdis was a whirlpool off the coast of Sicily able to sink an entire ship. Pass to close to one and the other interceded; and vice-versa.
The fight against international corruption is usually led by the United States, and no greater example of this can be seen in the ongoing criminal proceedings against FIFA; beginning with the initial 18 indictments handed down last May, through the subsequent arrests in Geneva and elsewhere across the globe. Yet for any multi-national effort, it takes multi-national cooperation. According to the New York Times, while U.S. authorities have publicly praised Switzerland as part of this effort, “government officials from the two countries have hardly worked in lock step.”
The reasons are relatively straightforward: national pride and national ego, which are not necessarily the same thing. The national pride is that the Swiss are “eager to telegraph that the United States is not Switzerland’s policeman.” The national ego component is the attempt not to appear to be the “puppet” of the United States. Unfortunately both concepts can work to slow prosecution of the bad guys.
In the FIFA matter, the U.S. law firm hired to perform the internal investigation, Quinn Emanuel, has been blocked since this summer from sending the results of that investigation back to the United States to share with U.S. prosecutors, as part of FIFA’s attempts to demonstrate extensive cooperation to lessen any fine and penalty the Justice Department may be contemplating towards their client. The law in question, Article 271 of the Swiss criminal code, is usually waived during such internationally focused investigations. The Times, however, reported that “Swiss officials indicated unusual reluctance to waive the law in question.”
Why the Swiss authorities are reluctant to waive this law is unclear. The law was enacted in the wake of the Swiss banking scandal involving UBS and tax evasion of U.S. citizens. It puts FIFA and its lawyers, however, in a difficult position. If they disclose the information, they run the risk of prosecution under Swiss law. If they do not disclose the information, FIFA runs the risk of losing “cooperating victim” status, potentially risking further direct enforcement by U.S. officials against FIFA.
The entire matter could well be crashed down by either hazard. No smooth sailing here.