Football's governing body cast into a state of crisis ahead of Friday's presidential election after seven officials, including vice-president Jeffrey Webb, are arrested for corruption
New York: The United States accused soccer officials of corrupting a sport loved by billions yesterday, warning the investigation is not over and seeking the extradition of suspects arrested in Switzerland. Attorney General Loretta Lynch unveiled the fruits of a complex, international investigation, spanning years, after seven officials were arrested in Zurich in dawn-raids by Swiss police at US request.
FIFA President Joseph Blatter. Pic/Getty Images
The 47-count US indictment charges 14 soccer officials and marketing executives with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies that span 24 years beginning in 1991. The officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their support of marketing executives who agreed to make the payments.
"They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves," Lynch told a news conference in New York. "This Department of Justice is determined to end these practices to root out corruption and bring wrongdoers to justice," she added. US officials would not be drawn on whether there would be further charges against senior FIFA figures, not named in the indictment, and repeatedly refused to answer questions about the body's president Sepp Blatter.
Not the end
"It's a significant step but I want to be very clear, this is the beginning of our effort not the end," said Kelly Currie, acting US attorney for the eastern district of New York. "We look forward to continuing our work with our international partners... to be ridding global soccer from this type of corruption."
Lynch said the US investigation into kickbacks was separate but parallel to a Swiss investigation into allegations of bribery in the process of awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. "Two generations of soccer officials," Lynch said, "used their positions within their organisations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the commercial rights to their tournaments. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament."
Tens of millions of dollars had been discovered hidden away in offshore accounts in Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, said Richard Weber, chief of the US tax agency's criminal investigation division. "It was a World Cup of Fraud. Today we are showing them the red card," he said.
Citing as examples, Lynch said FIFA took bribes during the process that awarded the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. Lynch would not comment on the upcoming 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which are to be held in Russia and Qatar, but said: "FIFA has a lot of soul searching to do." Lynch said bribes were also involved in the 2011 FIFA presidential election and that in preparation for the 2016 Copa American being held in the US for the first time, $110 million in bribes were paid.
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UEFA's 54 member associations back plans to move the tourney from its traditional June and July slot.
Amnesty International uncover alleged "human rights abuses" on World Cup construction projects, releasing a report that details "an alarming level of exploitation".
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke says in a radio interview that the World Cup will not take place in June-July, but the world governing body insists that a decision is yet to be made.
Pressure grows on FIFA at the Brazil World Cup to order a new vote on the 2022 tournament as a probe gets under way headed by US lawyer Michael J Garcia, but Blatter vows to fight critics trying to "destroy" FIFA
October 17, 2014
FIFA's top judge says that it cannot release Garcia's final report of the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in full for legal reasons with Garcia later complaining that a summary of his report misrepresented his conclusions.
November 18, 2014
FIFA lodges a criminal complaint with the Swiss attorney general over "possible misconduct" by individuals in connection with the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
February 24, 2015
A FIFA World Cup task force recommends the 2022 World Cup in Qatar be held in winter, probably in November-December, to avoid the scorching summer temperatures in the Gulf state.
May 27, 2015
Top FIFA officials are taken into custody in Zurich for alleged racketeering, conspiracy and corruption while Swiss authorities raid the FIFA headquarters looking for evidence linked to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.