Allegations of corruption within the senior ranks of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have exploded once again following the arrest of several officials, including one Vice President of FIFA, in Switzerland. The suspects, alleged to have accepted bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major football tournaments totalling in excess of US$100 million (£65 million), now face extradition to the United States where the crimes are alleged to have been organised.
The officials were arrested with others in the dawn raid by Swiss police acting on an indictment by the U.S. Justice Department which, according to United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, “alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States.”
All were in Switzerland as they were due to attend FIFA’s annual general meeting on Friday at which Sepp Blatter is expected to be elected to a fifth term as President of the scandal-plagued organisation. Blatter was not arrested but CNN reports that he was among those investigated in part of the probe which officials say is ongoing. The Guardian reports that up to 15 officials remain under investigation worldwide.
Those arrested following the three year FBI investigation into racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy include:
Jeffrey Webb – president of the Confederation for North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF)
Jack Warner – Webb’s predecessor and former FIFA vice-president
Eugenio Figueredo – president of South American football governing body Conmebol, Uruguayan Association football executive and former footballer
Eduardo Li – president of the Costa Rican football federation, was due to join FIFA’s executive committee on Friday
José Maria Marin – ex-president of the Brazilian Football Confederation and member of FIFA’s club committee
Julio Rocha – a FIFA development officer;
Rafael Esquivel – president of the Venezuelan Football Federation
Nicolás Leoz – the former South American football president.
Charges are also being brought against several sports-marketing executives alleged to have been making payments to FIFA officials and those of certain FIFA sub-organisations in return for media, marketing and sponsorship rights for Latin American football tournaments. Several officials have already pleaded guilty, including Chuck Blazer, former General Secretary of CONCACAF and member of FIFA’s executive committee.
CNN reports that Blazer, the man credited with soccer’s growing succes in the US, has been cooperating with authorities after being approached in relation to unpaid tax due on commissions received during his time as head of CONCACAF.
“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” said a law enforcement official told The New York Times, “it just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalised.”
In a further body blow to FIFA, several hours after the US indictment was disclosed the Swiss Attorney-General revealed that Swiss authorities have launched investigations “against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups.”