Federal prosecutors allege that “two generations of soccer officials” used partnerships with sports marketing executives to solicit $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for, among other things, their support for the sites of FIFA World Cup events, from qualifiers to the 2010 World Cup.
A 47-count federal indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn, charging 14 defendants — nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives — with racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery, among other offenses, in connection with a near quarter-century scheme to enrich themselves through their management of the sport.
With soccer officials from all over the world congregating in Zurich this week to attend the annual FIFA Congress, Swiss authorities arrested seven suspects charged in the indictment. Federal investigators were also conducting a search at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami.
FIFA is world soccer’s governing body; CONCACAF is a regional confederation that encompasses North and Central America and the Caribbean.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a release ahead of a news conference in New York.
According to court documents, nine of the defendants were FIFA officials, as well as officials of one or more other bodies.
“It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks,” Lynch said. “And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable.”
The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said the criminal proceedings are against “persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering” related to the successful bidders.
The OAG said computers and documents were seized at FIFA’s offices in Zurich.
During a press conference, FIFA said it’s cooperating with the investigation but otherwise quickly ruled out re-voting on where to hold the tournament that is watched by tens of millions of people around the world, and that takes place every four years.
“FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football,” it said in a statement.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Martin Rogers and Kim Hjelmgaard