PtG Article 27.05.2015

Seven FIFA officials arrested in major corruption investigation

A total of fourteen people are indicted for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption involving payments worth up to $150m, writes the US justice department while the Swiss authorities have launched an investigation into the allocation of the 2018/2022 World Cups.

In an operation coordinated with the US authorities, Swiss police this morning arrested seven FIFA officials in Zurich, Switzerland, where most of the international football body’s management is gathered ahead of the FIFA Congress planned to start tomorrow on 28 May.  Among the arrested were, according to the US Department of Justice, FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo as well as Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin.

The arrests were made as a part of a coordinated cooperation between Swiss and US authorities, who are leading two separate investigations into FIFA.

The US investigation that led to the arrests today concerns a 47-count indictment that was released today by the US Justice Department. A total of nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives, all named, are indicted in the case. The allegations include money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud worth up to $150m dating back from 1991.

Most of the schemes alleged in the indictment relate to the solicitation and receipt of bribes and kickbacks by football officials from sports marketing executives in connection with the commercialisation of the media and marketing rights associated with various football matches and tournaments in the two continental confederations CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) and CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation), the US Justice Department writes in a press release. 

 “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said attorney general Loretta E. Lynch.

“It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable. Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.” 

Another investigation into FIFA was also released today, as the Swiss prosecutor’s office sent out a press release, saying that Swiss police this morning had seized data and documents at the FIFA headquarter due to suspicions of criminal mismanagement and money laundering in relation to the allocation of the 2018/2022 World Cups.

The Swiss criminal proceeding is initiated based on a complaint launched by FIFA late last year against ‘people unknown’.

“On 18 November 2014, FIFA had filed criminal charges against persons unknown with the OAG. Therefore, the Swiss proceeding is aimed at persons unknown, with FIFA as the injured party. With this procedure, the OAG is contributing to the struggle against corrupt behaviour and money laundering,” wrote the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland in a statement in which it was underlined that while the US and the Swiss proceedings were coordinated, the two cases were not conducting joint investigations.

While FIFA spokesperson Walter de Gregorio, at a FIFA press conference following the arrests, agreed that the timing of these arrests were not optimal for FIFA, he claimed that ‘this is a good day for FIFA’ and something that they had anticipated following the November 2014 complaint.

“We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken,” a FIFA statement said, also noting that this morning’s arrests were carried out in relation to CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has not been named in any of the information about the two proceedings and according to FIFA, the congress and the presidential election scheduled for Thursday and Friday will take place as planned.

After Michael van Praag and Luis Figo pulled out from the election last week, Blatter’s only opponent in the election is Jordanian FA president Prince Ali. In a press release earlier today, he called it “a sad day for football”, but refrained from further comments at the time.


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