FIFA officials indicted for corruption


Photo courtesy of Mariya Butd

The FIFA World Cup was controversially held in Brazil last year, adding more fuel to the fire for the scandal.

This story was updated as of 6/3/15.

The day soccer fans have been waiting for has arrived. No, not the FIFA World Cup or the UEFA Champions League final, but the indictment of nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives and the arrests of seven high-ranking officials in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday, totaling 14 FIFA members.

FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the governing body of soccer. The agency has been under constant scrutiny after controversially awarding Russia and Qatar World Cups in 2018 and 2022, respectively. Both tournaments are said to have been chosen after FIFA officials who vote on the location of the tournaments took bribes from Russian and Qatari delegates. In addition, the United States was attempting to host the 2022 World Cup.

After a recent ESPN documentary shed new light on the corruption surrounding FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was re-elected today, everything has unraveled for the Swiss-based organization. Blatter was not among those arrested or charged, but FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF (the North American and Caribbean soccer federation) President Jeffrey Webb was. UEFA president Michel Platini has asked Blatter to step down, but Blatter is refusing to do so.

The United States Department of Justice and FBI have given the Swiss the go-ahead in making the arrests. Those involved are set to be extradited to the United States, where newly-appointed Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch will supervise the investigation.

“These individuals and 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,”  Lynch said, according to BBC News. “They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

The supposed “non-profit” organization contains these individuals who have been charged with receiving bribes to award media and marketing rights to football tournaments, taking bribes to influence the decision of where tournaments should be hosted, racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud, according to Lynch in a press conference in New York on Wednesday. The reported amount of money involved in the bribes is estimated to be around $150 million.

Blatter said in his victory speech that he is not perfect, but wants to fix the problems in FIFA. Many soccer fans, analysts and pundits are all expecting more work from the Justice Department as the investigation continues.

Current U.S. Attorney General for New York’s eastern district, Kelly Currie, stated in a New York press conference that it is the “beginning, not the end, of the investigation.”

Update (6/3/15): Newly re-elected FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced that he would step down from his position as President, but it will not take immediate effect, according to an official FIFA press conference on Tuesday. The new President will be chosen in an upcoming election some time between next December and March, according to FIFA compliance chief Domenico Scala, as reported by Sports Illustrated.