US-Led Probe Charges FIFA Officials of Corruption
The United States Justice Department, in coordination with Swiss authorities, has brought charges, including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy — against 14 people tied to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Zurich, Switzerland, according to multiple media outlets.
FIFA officials are accused of “fixing” matches, and high-ranking former or current executives have been accused of accepting bribes totaling hundreds of millions of dollars for the planning of FIFA World Cups and the Copa America, the latter of which will be held in the United States for the first time in 2016.
“In short, these individuals, through these organizations, engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” says U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, according to CNN.
The announcement of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts, Russia and Qatar, respectively, aroused international suspicion and confusion immediately, though it has taken several years for any country to spearhead an effort to root out FIFA corruption.
According to media reports, the reason for suspicion ranges from both nations’ apparent lack of human rights concerns, alleged Russian aggression in Ukraine and Qatar’s plan to invest a reported $200 billion toward hosting the tournament.
Also confusing was FIFA’s decision to award a World Cup — a tournament that is played in summer — to Qatar, where temperatures can reach above 120˚F. In the months following the announcement of Qatar as the 2022 host, FIFA decided to move the tournament to the winter months for the first time in its near 100-year history.
“The OAG (Swiss Attorney General) and the Swiss Federal Criminal Police will be questioning 10 persons who took part in voting on the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as members of the Executive Committee in 2010,” says the OAG in a statement.”
Though the World Cup host bids have been garnering most of the international attention, there are reports that bribery also occurred during planning of the 2016 Copa America tournament.
The news comes days before FIFA’s presidential election, in which incumbent Sepp Blatter was expected to win by a landslide. The election may now be postponed, as many are calling for his resignation.
For more information, including a statement by Blatter, visit fifa.com. — J.B.