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Justice Dept. Escalates Inquiry on Global Sports Corruption

Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., was chosen to host the 2021 world track and field championships. There was no bidding process.
Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., was chosen to host the 2021 world track and field championships. There was no bidding process. Source: Andrew Burton for The New York Times.

This material belongs to: The New York Times.

United States prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas in a far-reaching investigation of international sports corruption, seeking new information about some of the biggest sports organizations in the world — including FIFA, the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee — as well as the people who have successfully lobbied to host top global competitions.

The Justice Department is exploring possible racketeering, money laundering and fraud charges related to two track and field world championship events and the business executives who have consulted on bids for various other elite competitions, according to one of the subpoenas, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The subpoenas, delivered in January, have solicited documents, testimony and financial records dating to 2013. Since that time, the United States has won bids to host two major sports events: the 2021 track and field world championships, in Eugene, Ore., and the 2028 Summer Olympics, in Los Angeles. The subpoena did not explicitly refer to the Los Angeles Olympic bid.

Of particular interest to the Justice Department, according to the subpoena, is the world governing body for track and field, known as the International Association of Athletics Federations. That federation awarded the sport’s 2019 world championships to Doha, Qatar, and the 2021 event to Eugene.

The investigation is being conducted by the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York. The Brooklyn office includes the same prosecutors who have spent years investigating FIFA, the global governing body for soccer, resulting in a range of bribery and corruption charges that produced upheaval in the organization. The office has also spent years investigating systematic doping in Russia.

A spokesman for the Eastern District declined to comment on Wednesday.

The individuals summoned to provide information, including personal and corporate bank records, were asked to appear in federal court in Brooklyn as soon as this week.

The government’s request came just as global sports officials prepared to travel to Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the Winter Olympics, and as the United States Olympic Committee has been roiled by the case of Lawrence G. Nassar, a former doctor for the American gymnastics team convicted of sexually abusing scores of young athletes.

A spokesman for the U.S.O.C. declined to comment on Wednesday, and a spokesman for the I.O.C. did not immediately respond to a request. A spokeswoman for the world governing body of track and field said the organization had not been contacted by American investigators. “We stand ready to cooperate, if they do,” she said.

Among the specific sports marketing companies that prosecutors are scrutinizing, according to the subpoena, is Helios Partners, a firm that has lobbied global sports officials to award high-profile events to particular cities and countries. Helios helped Russia secure the 2014 Winter Olympics and the coming 2018 World Cup, before its acquisition in 2012 by the Amaury Group, a French media company.

American prosecutors are also specifically interested in Eugene’s successful bid for the track and field event, which the U.S.O.C. actively supported, and Doha’s successful effort to host the 2019 edition of that competition, which occurs every two years.

Abroad, the same competitions have drawn intense scrutiny. France’s national financial prosecutor’s office has been investigating the track and field governing body and its choices of Eugene and Doha. Track and field’s world governing body gave the 2021 event to Eugene without a bidding process. The BBC reported in June that the F.B.I. and the I.R.S. were investigating Eugene’s selection.

Lamine Diack, who ran the international track federation for 16 years and served as a longtime member of the I.O.C., has been detained in France since November 2015, accused of accepting bribes for covering up the doping violations of Russian athletes.

Connections to Mr. Diack and his son led the Brazilian authorities to arrest Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the head of Brazil’s Olympic committee, last fall amid suspicions that Rio de Janeiro’s successful bid to stage the 2016 Summer Games was helped by bribery to secure supportive votes from members of the I.O.C.

The wide net newly cast by American prosecutors suggests overlapping threads with the French investigation, but the Justice Department is also soliciting broader information, including about FIFA — suggesting that American authorities’ scrutiny of that organization, which figured prominently into a federal trial late last year, is far from over.

FIFA itself has sought to turn the page on its corruption scandal, emphasizing its status as a victim in the American case and its cooperation with investigators. Former officials were charged with an array of crimes, including racketeering conspiracy and fraud — the same issues central to the prosecutors’ continuing scrutiny.

FIFA, too, has a major competition scheduled to be held in Qatar: the 2022 World Cup. At the FIFA trial last year, new information emerged about alleged bribery that helped to steer that tournament to Qatar.