FIFA: Six officials arrested in Zurich over corruption probe targeting football's governing body
FIFA headquarters in Zurich PHOTO: The arrests relate to suspected corruption at football's governing body, FIFA. (AFP: Sebastien Bozon) MAP: Switzerland Six football officials have been arrested in Zurich and detained pending extradition to the United States over suspected corruption at soccer's governing body FIFA.
Swiss authorities said on Wednesday they have opened criminal proceedings against individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the award of rights to host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups in Russia and Qatar respectively.
Switzerland's justice ministry also said in a statement they had seized data and documents stored in IT systems at FIFA.
"The bribery suspects — representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms — are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries — delegates of FIFA ... and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organisations — totalling more than $100 million," the Swiss justice ministry said in a statement.
"In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America.
"According to the US request, the crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and the payments were carried out via US banks."
FIFA says it instigated the investigations, is 'very happy' with events
FIFA held a press conference on Wednesday evening (AEST) in the wake of the arrests.
The organisiation's director of communications and public affairs, Walter De Gregorio, said FIFA initiated this process on November 18 last year.
"FIFA lodged a legal complaint with the federal attorney realted to the allocation of FIFA World Cups 2018 and 2022," Mr De Gregorio said.
"FIFA welcomes this process and cooperates fully with the attorney general of Switzerland.
"FIFA corresponds to all requests for information.
Mr De Gregorio said FIFA was the damaged party and pleased with the investigations.
"In this case FIFA is the damaged party and this leads to the fact that there were no searches in the offices of FIFA," he said.
"We are very happy with what is happening right now, it is once again FIFA suffering under the circumstances, it is certainly a difficult moment for us.
"Of course congress will take place, one thing has nothing to do with the other. Congress will be carried out taking into account this current procedure.
"We are of course in very close contact with the attorney-general and it is possible that later in the day or tomorrow we can give you an update on the latest situation.
"We know nothing more right now, only what we have been informed through this press release.
"It confirms that we are on the right track."
The Swiss justice ministry said the alleged corruption began in the early 1990s. It did not identify which officials were arrested but confirmed that FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not among them.
The New York Times earlier reported Swiss authorities had launched an operation to arrest several high-ranking FIFA officials and extradite them to the US.
The Times, citing an anonymous law enforcement official, said the US federal charges included racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.
More than 10 officials were expected to be indicted, the newspaper reported.
A spokeswoman for FIFA declined to comment, but the organisation did announce a press conference with its director of communications and public affairs, Walter De Gergorio, would be held in Zurich at 7pm AEST.
FIFA vice president, powerful executive committee targeted: Times
The officials were in Zurich for the FIFA Congress, where incumbent Blatter faces a challenge from Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein in a presidential election on Friday.
The Times said the law enforcement official named Jeffrey Webb, Eugenio Figueredo, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, Jose Maria Marin and Nicolas Leoz as those charged.
Webb is the vice president of FIFA and considered by many to be Blatter's preferred successor, while Figueredo is also a FIFA vice president.
Charges were also expected against the sports-marketing executives Alejandro Burzaco, Aaron Davidson, Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis. Authorities also charged José Margulies as an intermediary who facilitated illegal payments, according to the paper.
Li, a FIFA official from Costa Rica, was reportedly led by the authorities from his room to a side-door exit of the hotel with his baggage, which was adorned with FIFA logos.
The paper said more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived at Zurich's Baur au Lac Hotel, took keys from the registration desk and headed up to the rooms.
"We're struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did," the Times quoted an unnamed law enforcement official as saying.
"It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business.
"It seems like this corruption was institutionalised."
The Times said much of the inquiry was focused on the CONCACAF region, which governs football in the North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The confederation's former boss, Warner, was regularly dogged by accusations of corruption before he resigned in 2011, putting an end to investigations of the Trinidadian.
Prosecutors expected to announce the case at a news conference on Wednesday at the Brooklyn US attorney's office, which is leading the investigation, The Wall Street Journal said in a separate report.
US attorney-general Loretta Lynch, Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey and Internal Revenue Service criminal chief Richard Weber were expected to appear in Brooklyn to announce the case, the WSJ said.
The reports offer a fresh blow to the credibility of FIFA, which has suffered repeated accusations of wrongdoing over the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.
FIFA appointed an independent investigator to look into the allegations and though a summary of his report found some wrongdoing on the part of the Qatari and Russian bid committees, FIFA's ethics judge concluded it was not enough to question the entire process.
The investigator, former attorney Michael Garcia, subsequently resigned from his role in December after criticising the handling of his report
U.S. authorities are preparing to unveil a criminal indictment against officials of soccer’s international governing body that will detail allegations of widespread corruption, according to people familiar with the matter.
The indictment against officials of the International Federation of Association Football, known as FIFA, was expected to be unsealed in Brooklyn federal court against multiple individuals as early as Wednesday, the people said.
Early Wednesday morning six soccer officials were arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, the country’s Federal Office of Justice said in a statement, adding that they had been detained pending extradition. The FOJ said the arrest warrants were issued after a request by U.S. authorities, which suspect them of having received bribes totaling millions of dollars.
Swiss authorities entered the Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich, where senior FIFA officials are staying ahead of the governing body’s annual meeting. Shortly afterward at least one individual was escorted out of a side entrance of the hotel.
Several miles across town, authorities were gearing up to raid FIFA’s offices, according to a person familiar with the matter.
As many as 12 officials were expected to be arrested, the person said.
A FIFA spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Prosecutors expect to announce the case at a news conference at the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, which is leading the investigation. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and Internal Revenue Service criminal chief Richard Weber are expected to appear in Brooklyn to announce the case, the people said.
The indictment is likely to roil the governing body of the world’s most popular sport, which has been dogged by allegations of corruption and bribery for years.
The development comes less than 72 hours before the organization’s annual congress in Zurich where FIFA is expected to elect Joseph “Sepp” Blatter to a fifth consecutive term as president. Mr. Blatter, a 79-year-old former watch company executive, has presided over FIFA, the nonprofit custodian and organizer of the World Cup, since 1998.
Mr. Blatter has overseen the World Cup’s growth into a quadrennial cash cow for Switzerland-based FIFA through the shrewd sale of television and marketing rights. As of 2014, its cash reserves stood at $1.52 billion. During the 2011-14 cycle, it generated $5.72 billion of revenue, according to FIFA’s most recently published financial results, the most in its history.
The organization has faced controversy in recent years. There have been allegations of bribery surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a high-profile lawsuit by MasterCard in New York federal court and the ousting of at least eight members of FIFA’s executive committee, along with public-relations faux pas on topics from fan racism to women’s soccer uniforms.
Brooklyn prosecutors and agents in the FBI’s New York field office have been investigating FIFA for years, according to the people familiar with the matter. Investigators reached a turning point in their probe in 2011 when an American member of the FIFA Executive Committee, Charles “Chuck” Blazer, began cooperating with them, one of the people said. Mr. Blazer, a Queens, N.Y., native, began providing FBI agents with information about alleged fraud and money laundering within FIFA’s ranks, according to the person.
Mr. Blazer, who from 1990 to 2011 was the general secretary of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, or Concacaf, agreed to record conversations with other FIFA executives after authorities threatened to bring tax evasion charges against him, the person said.
Mr. Blazer is gravely ill and couldn't be reached for comment.
In December 2010, FIFA’s executive committee voted to award the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. That decision is still controversial nearly five years later. At least eight of the members of that executive committee have since resigned or been removed from it.
Suspicions of vote-buying around the process grew so loud that FIFA appointed an independent investigator, former federal prosecutor Michael J. Garcia, to look into it. FIFA hasn't published Mr. Garcia’s report, which was completed last fall.
While it found some wrongdoing on the part of the Qatari and Russian bid committees, FIFA’s ethics judge concluded it wasn't enough to question the entire process.
Mr. Garcia subsequently resigned from his role as investigator in December to protest the organization’s handling of his report.
Ahead of the controversial vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, Mr. Blazer, who is 70, publicly expressed support for Russia’s bid to host. In the run-up to the 2011 election for FIFA president he revealed that Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar had offered leaders of football associations in the Caribbean thousands of dollars in brown envelopes, supposedly for soccer development projects when he met with them to seek support for the election. Mr. bin Hammam resigned his position as head of the Asia Football Confederation and was later barred from FIFA. He denied wrongdoing throughout FIFA’s investigations of him.
An investigation into Concacaf’s business dealings ordered by Concacaf itself and released in 2012 concluded that Mr. Blazer failed to file income tax statements and pay taxes on behalf of the organization and its marketing unit between 2004-10. In addition, the report revealed that Mr. Blazer defrauded the organization by filing false financial statements on the organization’s behalf and misappropriating funds.
The report, overseen by the law firm Sidley & Austin, stated that Mr. Blazer had the organization pay him more than $15 million in the form of commissions, fees, and rent expenses without obtaining proper authorization. It also said Mr. Blazer used Concacaf funds to finance his personal lifestyle including paying his rent on his residence in the Trump Tower in New York, purchasing apartments at the Mondrian, a luxury hotel and residence in Miami. He was suspended from FIFA, and resigned from the board in 2013. Mr. Blazer has said little publicly about FIFA matters since the controversy surrounding the 2011 FIFA election.
d May 27, 2015 2:11 a.m. ET U.S. authorities are preparing to unveil a criminal indictment against officials of soccer’s international governing body that will detail allegations of widespread corruption, according to people familiar with the matte
my bet is they are more severly prosecuted in the US than the grubs who near brought the world financial system to its kness in the GFC
the one where they bribed the Major Ratings Agencies to alloacate AAA status to the sub-prime loans to allow them to be sold off to the suckers like superannuation funds etc
the one where they then used taxpayers money to bail out the institutions so that it wouldn't disrupt the game any further
the one where the Fed Res then printed a hundred trillion dollars of paper money to hand to over 40 banks worldwide (inclusing one unnamed australian bank) to allow them to continue the game
but by all means .. bring the fifa rorting perpetrators to trial in the US in a massive show of how repugnant rorting is to them (unless its at the very highest level imaginable within the global money game )
maybe even gaol time is ahead (where the gaolee won;t be able to find a single global banker in a cell to have a chit chat with)
what a fkn world we live in
my bet is they are more severly prosecuted in the US than the grubs who near brought the world financial system to its kness in the GFCthe one where they bribed the Major Ratings Agencies to alloacate AAA status to the sub-prime loans to allow them t
Blatter under investigation, New York Times reports
The New York Times is also reporting that Sepp Blatter is under investigation.
The Times story says “law enforcement officials confirmed that [Blatter] was a focus of a federal corruption investigation.”
According to the Times, “several United States officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that in their efforts to build a case against Blatter they were hoping to win the cooperation of some of the Fifa officials now under indictment and work their way up the organization.”
Getting more interesting now this storyBlatter under investigation, New York Times reportsThe New York Times is also reporting that Sepp Blatter is under investigation.The Times story says “law enforcement officials confirmed that [Blatter] was a f
Former top Fifa official Chuck Blazer admits that he and others on the executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the choice of South Africa as 2010 World Cup host.
The American says he also accepted bribes over the 1998 event. The admissions come in a newly released transcript from a 2013 US hearing in which he pleads guilty to 10 charges.
The US has launched a wide-ranging criminal case that engulfed Fifa and led President Sepp Blatter to resign.
The US prosecutors last week indicted 14 people on charges of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. Four others had already been charged, including Mr Blazer.
The US justice department alleges they accepted bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period.
Former top Fifa official Chuck Blazer admits that he and others on the executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the choice of South Africa as 2010 World Cup host.The American says he also accepted bribes over the 1998 event.The
The FIFA corruption scandal escalated Thursday as one suspect told of World Cup bribes and another promised to reveal an "avalanche" of secrets, including about FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
The storm spread around the globe with South African police opening an investigation into claims that money was paid to secure the 2010 World Cup.
Now battling cancer in hospital, the disgraced former North American football supremo Chuck Blazer said in testimony released by prosecutors that FIFA executives conspired to accept bribes during bidding for the 1998 and 2010 events.
Under a plea deal with US prosecutors, the 70-year-old wore a hidden microphone and recorded conversations with other FIFA officials.
"Among other things, I agreed with other persons in or around 1992 to facilitate the acceptance of a bribe in conjunction with the selection of the host nation for the 1998 World Cup," Blazer said in his plea.
Blazer went on to admit that he and "others on the FIFA executive committee" agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa to host the World Cup in 2010.
South African officials have angrily denied allegations by US investigators that they paid $10 million (8.9 million euros) in bribes in 2008 to secure the rights.
The money allegedly went to Warner, a former FIFA vice-president and another former CONCACAF head. He was suspended by the world body in 2011 for corruption.
Warner promised Wednesday in his native Trinidad and Tobago to tell an "avalanche" of secrets.
Warner said he had a file which "deals with my knowledge of international transactions at FIFA, including its president Mr Sepp Blatter" and "Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister."
And Australian police said they were now looking into corruption claims around Australia's failed 2022 bid.
https://au.sports.yahoo.com/football/a/28330207/fifa-corruption-scandal-spreads-around-the-globe/The FIFA corruption scandal escalated Thursday as one suspect told of World Cup bribes and another promised to reveal an "avalanche" of secrets, includin