On Wednesday the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice indicted nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for “Racketeering, Conspiracy and Corruption” as soccer’s world governing was rocked just 48 hours before a key congress in Zurich where the next presidential election is set to take place.
[ RELATED: Nine FIFA officials indicted by FBI ]
Among the FIFA officials arrested are its vice-president, and the current president of CONCACAF Jefferey Webb, and the former CONCACAF president Jack Warner plus several other high-ranking officials in South America.
Seven FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday at the request of the United States as Swiss authorities conducted dramatic early-morning raid on the five-star Baur au Lac hotel to obtain Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin.
[ RELATED: Swiss authorities launch criminal proceedings ]
In a lengthy statement on their website the FBI set out their investigation in full and Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie of the Eastern District of New York said, “Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”
FIFA’s Director of Communications & Public Affairs Walter de Gregorio claimed on Wednesday that the “2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar will go ahead” in a hastily arranged press conference, despite Swiss authorities saying it will be “questioning 10 persons who took part in voting on the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as members of the Executive Committee in 2010” in a completely separate investigation which was also announced on Wednesday.
The charges were announced by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, and she had the following damning statement about FIFA.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said 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.”
The FBI also revealed that former general secretary of CONCACAF and former U.S. representative on the FIFA executive committee Charles Blazer has pleaded guilty, as its long been suspected that he has helped the FBI as an informant, while four sports marketing executives (Alejandro Burzaco, Aaron Davidson, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis) and broadcasting businessman Jose Margulies was also indicted.
Director James B. Comey of the FBI had the following to say on its investigation, as the U.S. Department of Justice is leading the cleanup act of world soccer’s governing body after decades of debilitating allegations of corruption and wrongdoing.
“As charged in the indictment, the defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” Comey said. “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA. I want to commend the investigators and prosecutors around the world who have pursued this case so diligently, for so many years.”
As this dramatic story unfolds in Switzerland, ProSoccerTalk will keep you updated throughout the day.