Amid years of allegations of corruption, it looks like action is finally being taken against the most powerful sporting organization in the world.
FIFA is the governing body behind world football (soccer) and the organizers of the FIFA World Cup, which is the most widely viewed sporting event in the world. On Wednesday May 27, as the executives of FIFA’s governing body gathered in Zurich, Switzerland for the upcoming FIFA presidential elections, the five star Baur au Lac hotel was raided and seven FIFA officials arrested on counts of corruption. A total of 14 FIFA officials and five corporate executives were indicted by the US Department of Justice and the FBI on counts of “Racketeering, Conspiracy and Corruption”.
FIFA has been under fire for many years for their corrupt practices, most recently for the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to the countries of Russia and Qatar, respectively. It is widely believed that important FIFA officials were bribed in order to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. In response, three years ago FIFA hired a former US prosecutor named Michael Garcia to investigate allegations of bribery over the awarding of the World Cups to Qatar and Russia. FIFA then refused to publish Garcia’s findings, prompting him to quit.
Details of the indictment include bribes linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for football tournaments in the US and Latin America, charges of corruption against nine current or former FIFA officials, including FIFA vice-president Jeffery Webb and former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, and an alleged scheme that "fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created uneven playing field" including "Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes." The majority of this scheme involved corruption over media and marketing rights to matches and tournaments.
US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released a statement, saying: “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. 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. 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. Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.”
The seven executive arrested Wednesday in Zurich were Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin.
Perhaps most surprising is that FIFA is still planning on holding it’s presidential election on Friday despite the scandal. The election's incumbent president Sepp Blatter, the man many believe to be the most corrupt of all FIFA officials, will be running against Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
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