As FIFA leaders gathered for a meeting in the 5-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich this morning May 27th, Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced and arrested 7 of the highest-ranking football officials in the world, at the request of the US Department of Justice. Read full story below
Seven FIFA officials were arrested in dawn raids on charges of receiving millions of US dollars in bribes. A separate criminal investigation into the how the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were allocated was also launched by Swiss authorities.
Sepp Blatter faces Prince Ali bin al-Hussein in Friday’s election as he seeks a fifth term as FIFA president.
Fifa, world football’s governing body, has been dogged by allegations of corruption and wrongdoing in recent years.
The latest developments are another major blow, although Fifa communications director Walter De Gregorio insisted the organisation was continuing to reform.
“This is good for Fifa,” he told a news conference following news of the arrests. “It hurts, it is not easy, but it confirms we are on the right track.”
The seven Fifa officials were arrested after the US Department of Justice issued a 47-count indictment charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies in a 24-year scheme.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted,” said New York attorney general Loretta 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.”
The charges allege:
• Nine current or former Fifa officials, including Jeffrey Webb and former Fifa vice president Jack Warner, charged with corruption
• Four individual and two corporate defendants – including former Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer and Warner’s son Darayn plead guilty
• Alleged scheme “fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created uneven playing field”
• “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes became a way of doing business at Fifa” – US DOJ
• Majority of scheme involved corruption over media and marketing rights to matches and tournaments
Here Are the FIFA Officials Indicted on Corruption Charges of up to $100million
Jeffrey Webb: President of Concacaf, one of the six regional confederations that compose FIFA, and vice president of FIFA
Jack Warner: Former president of Concacaf and vice president of FIFA
Eugenio Figueredo: Former president of Conmebol, the South American federation, and outgoing FIFA vice president
Eduardo Li: President of Costa Rican federation, set to join FIFA executive committee this week
Julio Rocha: President of Nicaraguan association
Costas Takkas: Former president of Cayman Islands federation
Rafael Esquivel: President of Venezuelan association since 1988
José Maria Marin: Former president of Brazil’s federation
Nicolás Leoz: Former president of Conmebol and former member of FIFA executive committee
Alejandro Burzaco: Argentine sports media executive
Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA — a promoter of soccer events — and chairman of the board of North American Soccer League
Hugo Jinkis: Soccer media executive
Mariano Jinkis: Soccer media executive
José Margulies: Charged as intermediary who facilitated illegal payments
What About Sepp Blatter?
Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA since 1998, was not charged, though the soccer officials who were indicted might present prosecutors with information that is damaging to Mr. Blatter. An election, seemingly pre-ordained to give Mr. Blatter a fifth term as president, is scheduled for Friday in Zurich. It will go on as planned, a FIFA spokesman said.