Attorney General of the United States Loretta Lynch led a press conference in Brooklyn, New York this morning regarding the overnight arrests of FIFA officials in Switzerland.
Nine officials were arrested and will face extradition to the United States on charges including racketeering, conspiracy and corruption.
Lynch was joined by the IRS’ criminal investigation chief Richard Weber and the director of the FBI James Comey. Together, they detailed the long process that spanned multiple countries and continents in an effort to crack down on corruption on the beautiful game.
Below, we take a look at three things we learned from the news conference, and what you can expect moving forward.
THIS IS MUCH, MUCH MORE THAN RUSSIA AND QATAR
When corruption in FIFA comes up, most conversations go directly to the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. While there will certainly be more details to come regarding those two World Cups, the base of the investigation is far more complex.
The investigation dates back all the way to 1991, and includes members of soccer governing bodies in multiple continents. Money was laundered to banks in Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, and involves the World Cup as well as the Copa America tournament.
The Swiss government is conducting its own investigation on the Russia and Qatar World Cups, and who knows how many more charges will come from that.
YES, THIS DOES INVOLVE AMERICA
FIFA headquarters are based in Switzerland, and many people are wondering why the United States is using resources to conduct this investigation and extradite these officials to America. Simply put, the U.S. is very involved in the scandal.
The Copa America tournament is scheduled to be played in the United States in 2016, and that is one competition in the midst of the investigation. CONCACAF is based in Miami, and Loretta Lynch said that a search warrant was currently being carried out at the headquarters. It is believed that American sports marketing companies paid bribes to regulate the media rights and promote the tournament.
The U.S. government got involved because many of the meetings where these bribes were made took place on American soil, and the people involved used the American banking system to launder money.
Chuck Blazer, who for years was the United States’ most senior official at FIFA, has already plead guilty to charges of income tax evasion and money laundering. Blazer owed more than 11 million dollars in unreported taxes.
SOMEHOW, THERE WAS NO MENTION OF SEPP BLATTER
Sepp Blatter has been the president of FIFA since 1998, and his name has become almost synonymous with fraud and corruption in the sport. That’s why it came as such a surprise when the biggest crackdown on those very crimes seemingly failed to peg any blame on Blatter himself.
You’d have a tough time finding someone who believes Blatter is innocent, but as of right now, he’s lounging in Switzerland. He’s going to win reelection for president on Friday, and he will continue his reign in a sixth term as the head of FIFA.
When reporters asked about Blatter’s potential involvement, no official would answer, saying they could not talk about people who were not named in the investigation. Many think the only way to stop the corruption is to start with a clean slate, wiping FIFA clean of Blatter and other top officials and completely revamping the organization.
As this dramatic story unfolds in Switzerland, ProSoccerTalk will keep you updated throughout the day.