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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fifa corruption inquiries: Officials arrested in Zurich

Fifa corruption inquiries: Officials arrested in Zurich

  • 21 minutes ago
  • From the section
  • Europe

Media caption
NY Times reporter Matt Apuzzo, one of the New York Times journalists who broke the story: "These are big names in the soccer world"

Two criminal investigations into corruption at football's world governing body Fifa are under way, with seven senior officials arrested in Zurich on US charges.

Separately, Swiss prosecutors have launched a criminal case into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 world cups, to be held in Russia and Qatar respectively.
The seven are among 14 indicted on corruption charges, US authorities say.
Fifa says it plans to go ahead with elections for president on Friday.

Incumbent president Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term, was not one of the seven high-ranking officials arrested.

Fifa also said on Wednesday there would be no rerun of the World Cup bidding processes which saw Russia awarded the tournament in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, despite the Swiss inquiry.


Members of the media stand outside the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, on 27 May 2015.
The raid took place at a five-star hotel in Zurich early on Wednesday

Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan - Mr Blatter's rival for the Fifa presidency - described the arrests as "a sad day for football".

Fifa's Zurich headquarters has also been raided, with electronic data and documents seized.

'Rampant, systematic, deep-rooted'

The US justice department said 14 individuals were under investigation worldwide, including former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period.

A combination of file pictures shows Fifa officials (LtoR, from upper row) Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leoz, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin, 27 May 2015
The Fifa executives indicted include Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leoz, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin

Seven of those under investigation were arrested in a police operation at a five-star hotel in Zurich early on Wednesday:
  • Jeffrey Webb - head of the confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean, Concacaf, and Fifa vice-president
  • Costa Rica's national football chief Eduardo Li, who was due to join Fifa's executive committee on Friday
  • Uruguay's Eugenio Figueredo, president of South American football governing body Conmebol
  • Venezuelan Football Federation president Rafael Esquivel
  • Brazil's Jose Maria Marin, a member of Fifa's club committee
  • Fifa development officer Julio Rocha, from Nicaragua
  • Costas Takkas, of the UK, an attache to the Concacaf president
"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Several officials have already pleaded guilty, the US Department of Justice says. These include Charles Blazer, the former head of Concacaf, who was previously on the Fifa executive committee.

Image taken from a mobile phone shows hotel employees hiding the identity of a person led out of the hotel in Zurich on 27 May 2015
Mobile phone footage captured the moment a Fifa official was led out of the Zurich hotel

Mr Blazer, one of Fifa's most senior US representatives, allegedly started working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and took part in undercover work, according to US media reports.
US authorities are also searching the headquarters of Concacaf in Miami, Florida, as part of their investigations into the case.

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Football's untouchable 'dark prince' - Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Switzerland

Many have wondered how Sepp Blatter can have been in charge of Fifa for so long, amid so many reports of corruption, and yet remain, apparently, untouched.
One Swiss newspaper jokingly called him "the dark prince of football, the godfather, Don Blatterone" - but no inquiry has ever revealed proof of his involvement in corruption.
"He's a survivor," says one member of parliament, Roland Buechel. "Nothing ever sticks to him; there is always someone between him and the bribes."
Some old friends describe Mr Blatter as down-to-earth and open. Others who have worked with him say he is a man who resents opposition, pointing to the swift departure of Fifa colleagues who dared to question him.
What emerges, finally, is a man who both critics and supporters say cannot imagine his life without Fifa, a man whose tenure as president has outlasted three marriages.
But as scandal follows scandal, Mr Blatter's determination not to leave his post willingly could see him bundled unceremoniously out of the back door.

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Fifa "welcomes the process and co-operates fully with the attorney general of Switzerland," spokesman Walter DeGregorio told reporters on Wednesday.
"It is certainly a difficult moment for us," he said, "but this is good for Fifa. It confirms that we are on the right track".

Media caption
Fifa spokesman Walter De Gregorio: "This confirms that we are on the right track"
Both Swiss and US justice officials said the indicted officials had allegedly received $150m worth of bribes from the early 1990s for football tournaments in the US and Latin America.

The alleged crimes were agreed to and prepared in the US via US bank accounts, the office of the Swiss prosecutor said, adding that the Swiss authorities could immediately approve the extradition.

In a separate move, Swiss prosecutors 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".

Fifa has been mired in controversy in recent years, with the most recent allegations of bribery related to the 2018 and 2022 bidding process.

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