FIFA, the world football governing body, released a statement regarding the arrests of FIFA officials by Swiss authorities and extradited to the United States earlier today.
The statement welcomed any approach to try and provide transparency regarding the allocations of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, stating:
“FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football. We understand that today’s actions by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice on behalf of the US authorities and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (initiated by FIFA through the submission of the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process) relate to different matters.
“Firstly, the arrest of six individuals this morning in Zurich concerns investigations by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of the State of New York. The Swiss authorities, acting on behalf of their US counterparts, arrested the individuals for activities carried out in relation with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business.
“The second instance follows FIFA’s initiative of presenting the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General in November 2014. The authorities are taking the opportunity of the FIFA Congress to interview those FIFA Executive Committee members who are not Swiss residents who voted back in 2010 and are still in office.
“Today, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General announced that it has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown in relation to the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process. FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard. As noted by the Swiss authorities, this collection of evidence is being carried out on a cooperative basis.
“We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken.”
The arrests were made by Swiss authorities in Zurich, acting on behalf of the US Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of the State of New York.
There has been widespread questions about Qatar’s suitability to hosting a World Cup due to its climate, employment rights and human rights issues, as well as reports that it paid FIFA executives to vote for the country to host the 2022 World Cup. It has since been confirmed that the World Cup will be moved to the winter of 2022, with many questioning the validity of the voting process that resulted in the Qatari bid’s success. An internal investigation by FIFA was not made public and FIFA concluded there was no wrong doing, but external authorities now seem to be taking steps to properly investigate the voting process.
These arrests come at trying times for Blatter, who is bidding to maintain his position as FIFA President in Friday’s election. This will come as a welcome PR boost to opponent Prince Ali of Jordan, who is standing as the UEFA candidate for the election.
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