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FIFA officials arrested on corruption charges

Swiss authorities conducted an early-morning operation in Zurich to arrest a number of top FIFA officials and extradited them to the United States on federal corruption charges.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not among those rounded up by authorities, but vice-president Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands was arrested.

The arrests took place while officials from 209-member nations gathered in Zurich for the FIFA Congress where incumbent Blatter faces a challenge from Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein in a presidential election of Friday.

The FBI-backed charges allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals.

The indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. It is also expected to name sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major tournaments.

Among those charged are Jeffrey Webb, Eugenio Figueredo, Jack Warner , Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, Jose Maria Marin and Nicolas Leoz; this according to a law enforcement official.

“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” said the official. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”

SEE MORE — Watch ‘Sepp Blatter and FIFA’: ESPN’s explosive full-length documentary

A statement from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) said: “The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kickbacks between the early 1990s and the present day.

“The bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries – delegates of FIFA and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations – totaling more than $100m.”

In a separate operation, officers raided FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, seized electronic date and opened criminal proceedings “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,” said a statement from the Swiss attorney general.

The statement continued: “There are also suspicions of money laundering through Swiss bank accounts. Subsequently to today’s seizure of files, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Swiss Federal Criminal Police will be questioning ten persons who took part in voting on the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as members of the Executive Committee in 2010. These persons should be questioned as persons providing information.”

FIFA Director of Communications and Public Affairs Walter De Gregorio read a statement and answered questions from the media in the hours following the arrests.

“FIFA initiated this process on November 18 last year,” he said. “They lodged a legal complaint with the Federal Attorney, to do with the World Cups 2018 and 2022.

“FIFA welcomes this process and co-operates fully with the Attorney General of Switzerland. In this case FIFA is the damaged party, and this leads to the face there were no searches within the offices of FIFA. We provided the information requested because it is in our highest interests that all questions can be openly answered.

“The general secretary and the president are not involved. As to the names publish in the media I am unable to comment.”

SEE MORE — Listen to our interview with ESPN coordinating producer about the Sepp Blatter e60 documentary.

De Gregorio went on to say that Friday’s presidential election will take place as planned and there will be no revote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

“This for FIFA is good. I know you don’t believe me. It’s not good in terms of reputation or image, but in terms of cleaning up, it is good,” De Gregorio continued.

“It is not a nice day, but in other ways it is a good day because the process goes on and we’re looking forward to the results. We need the results to stop the speculation.”

In the meantime, here’s an audio broadcast from earlier today with Daniel Feuerstein and Dave Denholm regarding the breaking news:

Check Out Sports Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Feuersteins Fire on BlogTalkRadio

 

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. jtm371

    May 27, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    If Europe and South America said they were going to boycott Qatar Sepp would be gone. Europe and SA have the power to make a change.

  2. ribman

    May 27, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    UEFA and USA Soccer along with anyone else they can get need to boycott FIFA and go roque now is the time to gamble and put pressure on them

  3. Smokey Bacon

    May 27, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Amazing how much coverage this is getting in the mainstream U.S. media. Even made CNBC today.

    No doubt, some idiot like olbermann will use this as an opportunity to bash the sport.

    • Flyvanescence

      May 27, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      As if the National Pride of America Football League is clear of corruption.

  4. CTBlues

    May 27, 2015 at 10:33 am

    One has to think would this have even happened if the US won the bid for the 2022 WC.

  5. Joe

    May 27, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Blatter should be among them 😛

  6. CTBlues

    May 27, 2015 at 10:19 am

    I saw the news first on Facebook this morning but I was amazed when I saw Good Morning America open with big breaking news about this before the crazy weather out west. This probably means ABC World News tonight will probably lead with this as long as nothing really crazy happens between now and 7pm eastern.

  7. jtm371

    May 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

    You have to cut the head of the snake off. Sepp will skate by and he will put more of his minions in place. Hell he will be reelected on Friday. Hope I am proven wrong.

  8. Cody

    May 27, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Anyone else find it strange that it took a country where the sport is 5th most popular and is constantly chastised for calling it “soccer” rather than football, to finally lead a proper bust up of FIFA?

    • yespage

      May 27, 2015 at 11:04 am

      We want our 2022 Bribe money back.

    • KL

      May 27, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      This is why FIFA always feared the U.S. caring about soccer. We would never care that much about it that we would overlook the massive corruption.

    • Pakapala

      May 27, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      If anyone think there’s anything coming out of this, in regard to the top names in FIFA, think again. One only has to take a hard look at the list of persons charged today. Remember Blazer already rated most of the people on this list out to Blatter when he wanted to help Blatter weed out opposition to his election the last time around.

  9. Matt

    May 27, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I still expect to be let down but its a step in the right direction

  10. Michael

    May 27, 2015 at 7:07 am

    Let the bidding begin anew for 2022. Or just give it to the U.S. we won’t go into debt and the best stadia are already built.

  11. Todd

    May 27, 2015 at 6:57 am

    My concern is that nothing will come of this. It’s not like there’s anything new coming out of this that we didn’t already know.

    I’m guessing that if the U.S. is getting involved then there is enough there to get a few people in trouble and ask questions of FIFA, but I doubt there will be enough evidence to bring the corruption to a halt or reverse any of the decisions (i.e. the next two World Cups). In the end, I have a hard time feeling that any real justice will be done by this. A few lower level administrators will get in trouble, FIFA will get a fine that they will laugh at and Blatter will walk away with that smirk still plastered on his face.

  12. gargoyle

    May 27, 2015 at 6:55 am

    One can only hope this is the beginning of the end for Russia 2014 and Qatar 2022.

    • Peter Quinn

      May 27, 2015 at 11:31 am

      FIFA reiterated that there will be no revote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. It’s mentioned in the article.

      • David

        May 27, 2015 at 11:44 am

        Of course FIFA will say that. The Swiss have already opened an investigation over the bidding of Russia and Qatar. This is far from over.

        • Peter Quinn

          May 27, 2015 at 12:00 pm

          That was mentioned in the article too.

          Really, the only possibility for a revote on either World Cup would be if Blatter was removed. But even then, the bids have already been awarded and each country has begun preparations.

          In all likelihood, the bids won’t be yanked from Russia or Qatar.

          • David

            May 27, 2015 at 1:28 pm

            Unfortunately you are probably right. The only hope now is the investigators find something on Blatter or the FIFA officials who’ve been arrested start turning on FIFA and implicate Blatter.

            • Cody

              May 27, 2015 at 1:55 pm

              Peter mentioned in the article that he was probably right.

  13. EDub

    May 27, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Hmmm … this is a great story to wake up to …

    Let’s *hope* a lot of this sticks. If I’m being honest, I think that Sepp will have been working for years to insulate himself from any legal action.

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