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MORE FIFA CORRUPTION EXPOSED

The next step in the FIFA corruption investigation is extradition, whereby federal officials will attempt to bring suspects to the United States to face allegations they arranged bribes at meetings on U.S. soil, employed the U.S. banking system in conveying the bribes and created documents to cloak their activity, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday.
“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,” she told reporters.
Among the decisions allegedly sullied by corruption, Lynch said, were the “sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,” the 2011 FIFA presidential election and the placement of the 2010 World Cup.
“Around 2004, bidding began for the opportunity to host the 2010 World Cup, which was ultimately awarded to South Africa, the first time the tournament would be held on the African continent. But even for this historic event, FIFA executives and others corrupted the process by using bribes to influence the hosting decision,” she said.
The South African Football Association called the allegations baseless and promised to challenge them. Spokesman Dominic Chimhavi added, “Those individuals that brought the World Cup to South Africa were men of high integrity. Men like the late President Nelson Mandela and our former President Thabo Mbeki. The bidding process was never compromised.”

FIFA officials arrested on corruption charges 02:19
Lynch spoke to reporters in New York hours after the Justice Department announced the unsealing of a 47-count indictment in federal court in Brooklyn that detailed charges against 14 people for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
The most serious are the racketeering charges, which allege that the officials turned soccer “into a criminal enterprise,” she said. A conviction could command a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, she said.
FIFA announced shortly after Lynch’s news conference that it was banning 11 individuals from “football-related activities” as a result of the investigation. Seven of them have already been arrested by Swiss authorities, while others on the list had previous indictments and guilty pleas unsealed Wednesday.
The list also included former presidents of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, the governing bodies for soccer in North America and the Caribbean, and South America, respectively.
“The charges are clearly related to football and are of such a serious nature that it was imperative to take swift and immediate action,” said Hans-Joachim Eckert, FIFA’s Ethics Committee chairman.
The complexity of the investigation Lynch described was evident by the federal officials accompanying her, including a U.S. attorney, FBI Director James Comey and Richard Weber, head of the IRS Criminal Investigation division.
“This really is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card,” Weber said.
FIFA officials are accused of taking bribes totaling more than $150 million and in return providing “lucrative media and marketing rights” to soccer tournaments as kickbacks over the past 24 years.
Why is the U.S. bringing down the hammer on FIFA?
“The defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” Comey said in a statement. “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA.”
The indictment unsealed Wednesday “is the beginning of our work, not the end” of an effort to rid global soccer of corruption, said Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Arrests
In addition to the U.S. probe into corruption that Lynch earlier called “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted,” soccer’s powerful governing body also finds itself on the end of a Swiss investigation into World Cup bidding.
Swiss authorities raided FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich on Wednesday, the same day they announced an investigation into the last two awardedWorld Cup bids — to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 — both of which have been under fire since they were announced in 2010.

FIFA arrests: We have cooperated with investigators 02:31
But the day’s more definitive and, right now, damning action came out of the United States.
Read the indictment
Seven people were arrested Wednesday in Zurich with help from Swiss authorities, Lynch said. Among them was Jeffrey Webb, a FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF, the governing body for North America and the Caribbean.
Webb “used his position of trust to solicit bribes from sports marketing executives,” Currie said.
Authorities executed a search warrant at CONCACAF’s Florida office Wednesday morning, Lynch said.
Video from CNN affiliate WPLG-TVshowed people wearing FBI and police clothing carrying empty boxes into the Miami Beach building.
The majority of those arrested are contesting extradition to the United States, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice said. Though Lynch cited seven arrests, the Swiss office’s statement mentioned only six.
“The FOJ will now ask the USA to submit formal extradition requests within the 40-day period provided for in the bilateral extradition treaty. Extradition proceedings will be resumed as soon as these requests have been received,” it said.
If any suspect agrees to “simplified extradition proceedings” — and one defendant has expressed such an interest — “the person concerned may be handed over to the U.S. authorities immediately,” the Federal Office of Justice said.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter is not one of those arrested or facing charges by U.S. authorities, but he was among those investigated.
Asked if the U.S. investigation had cleared Blatter, Lynch told reporters, “I’m not able to comment further on Mr. Blatter’s status.” Officials said earlier Wednesday that the investigation into Blatter’s possible involvement continues.
Blatter said in a statement that FIFA welcomes the investigations by U.S. and Swiss authorities, and he believes their inquiries “will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.” In fact, he said, the Swiss investigation was “set in motion” when FIFA submitted a dossier to authorities last year. He did not elaborate.
“Such misconduct has no place in football, and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game,” Blatter said. “We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing.”
The cloud of alleged wrongdoing won’t change Blatter’s plans to travel to Canada, which has an extradition agreement with the United States, said FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio.
Election looms
Nor will the specter of a scandal stop executives from soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body from gathering Friday possibly to elect Blatter to a fifth term despite questions raised by Greg Dyke, the head of Britain’s Football Association, in light of Wednesday’s developments.
However, European football’s governing body, UEFA, said its member associations should consider whether to attend the upcoming FIFA World Congress, which it said should be postponed. UEFA further called for “new FIFA presidential elections to be organized within the next six months.”
The plans for future World Cups in Qatar, which has been dogged by criticism for its treatment of foreign workers rushing to build stadiums, and Russia are still on as well, De Gregorio said.

FIFA: Sepp Blatter ‘not involved’ in allegations 03:21
Yet Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, one of those challenging Blatter for FIFA’s presidency, said Wednesday, “We cannot continue with the crisis.”
“FIFA needs leadership that governs, guides and protects our national associations,” said Ali, who has in the past blasted what he calls FIFA’s culture of intimidation. “Leadership that accepts responsibility for its actions and does not pass blame. Leadership that restores confidence in the hundreds of millions of football fans around the world.”
De Gregorio scarcely mentioned the U.S. indictment at his news conference, though he did put a positive spin on the Swiss investigation.
“This for FIFA is good,” he said. “It is not good in terms of image, and it’s not good in terms of reputation, but in terms of cleaning up, in terms of everything that we did in the last four years.”
This assessment was shared by others around the globe. They include those, such as English football legend and broadcaster Gary Lineker, who has long ripped FIFA as self-serving and corrupt.
“This is extraordinary! FIFA is imploding,” Lineker said. “The best thing that could possibly happen to the beautiful game.”
Stan Collymore, a former member of England’s national team who thinks his country and the United States should boycott altogether, said it’s a good thing Washington got involved in FIFA’s business.
“The United States is the only nation who can tackle FIFA,” he tweeted. “Well done Attorney General and DOJ!!”
Former FIFA VP among those indicted
Six of those indicted in the United States have current ties to FIFA, while another, Jack Warner, is a former FIFA vice president and ex-president of CONCACAF. Others connected to soccer bodies in North America, South America and the Caribbean are sports marketing executives and, in one case, the person works in the broadcasting business.
Who has been charged?
Warner said in a statement that he had not been interviewed as part of the investigation, declared his innocence and said, “The actions of FIFA no longer concern me.”
“The people of Trinidad and Tobago will know that I quit FIFA and international football more than four years ago and that over the past several years, I have recommitted my life to the work of improving the lot of every citizen of every creed and race in this nation. This is where I have let my bucket down,” he said. “I have fought fearlessly against all forms of injustice and corruption.”

Lynch: U.S. determined to root out FIFA corruption 02:58
In May 2011, Warner and fellow FIFA member Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar were suspended by FIFA’s Ethics Committee, pending the outcome of an investigation of corruption allegations against them.
Warner resigned from his position the following month, and FIFA announced that “all Ethics Committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained.”
How FIFA makes its billions
The Justice Department on Wednesday also unsealed information on four people and two “corporate defendants” who pleaded guilty to various charges in recent years.
One of them, Charles Blazer, a former member of the FIFA Executive Committee, “decided early on to use his position for personal gain,” and between 2005 and 2010 amassed $11 million in unreported income, said the IRS’ Weber.
Also included are Warner’s sons Daryll, a former FIFA development officer who pleaded guilty in 2013 to two counts related to wire fraud and structuring of financial transactions, and Daryan, who has forfeited $1.1 million as part of his plea and will forfeit an undisclosed sum when he is sentenced for wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions.
The owner of the Brazilian sports marketing company Traffic Group, Jose Hawilla, also saw his 2014 indictment unsealed. At that time, he agreed to forfeit $151 million while pleading guilty to racketeering, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The charges stem from a three-year FBI investigation.
Swiss probe
Details on the Swiss investigation were not as readily available.
“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has 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,” the office said Wednesday. “In the course of said proceedings, electronic data and documents were seized today at FIFA’s head office in Zurich.”
The same office added later that it has blocked accounts at banks in Switzerland where alleged bribes flowed and seized related bank documents.
Swiss federal police will question Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko about how FIFA awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, an official with knowledge of the investigation has confirmed to CNN.
Mutko is one of 10 people who took part in the voting and is being investigated, according to Swiss authorities.
The attorney general’s office of Switzerland said it is looking into criminal mismanagement and money laundering as part of its investigation into the 2018 and 2022 bids.
“The files seized today and the collected bank documents will serve criminal proceedings both in Switzerland and abroad,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said.
England was one of the countries that submitted a failed bid for the 2018 World Cup, while the United States saw its 2022 bid shot down. Soccer bodies in both countries issued statements regarding Wednesday’s developments, though the U.S. Soccer Federation said it wouldn’t comment on specifics.
“There is no higher priority, and nothing more important, than protecting the integrity of our game. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and business practices, and we will continue to encourage CONCACAF and FIFA to promote the same values,” the U.S. federation said.
Dyke, chairman of England’s Football Association, said the news was “very serious for FIFA and its current leadership.”
“As one of the associations who nominated Prince Ali it will not surprise you to learn that if the election for president goes ahead The FA will be voting for him. However, there must be a question mark over whether the election should take place in these circumstances,” he said.
His delegation will discuss its position with UEFA when it meets Thursday ahead of the FIFA World Congress, his statement said.
FIFA has cleared itself
FIFA has been at the center of corruption investigations for years, but the organization has long dismissed allegations that top officials were on the take.


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