The Justice Department unsealed a 47-count indictment early Wednesday charging 14 world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, with racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud. Four of those accused, including two sports marketing companies, have already pleaded guilty and are likely to be cooperating.
Among the “alleged schemes,” said the Justice Department, were kickbacks to FIFA officials by executives and companies involved in soccer marketing and “bribes and kickbacks in connection” with “the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.” FIFA is the French abbreviation for the international Federation of Football Associations, the global governing body of soccer.
Swiss prosecutors, in a related announcement, said they had opened criminal proceedings against unidentified individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The separate Swiss probe includes “electronic data and documents” seized at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, the Swiss prosecutor’s office said. Swiss police said they will question at least 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010 that named Russia and Qatar as host nations for the next two tournaments.
But FIFA said those awards to Qatar and Russia would not be reconsidered.
The unsealing of the U.S. indictments early Wednesday followed a roundup of FIFA officials at a swanky hotel in Zurich, where the organization is headquartered and where an important meeting was planned. The Swiss said they were acting at the behest of the United States, which had requested the extradition of those arrested.
The allegations of corruption in the most popular sport on the planet surprised no one. For years, a shadow has hung over international soccer. Again and again, allegations have swirled around the sport’s organizing body, centering around accusations of rampant bribery in connection with FIFA decisions.
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