In the early morning hours before dawn in Zurich on Wednesday, Swiss authorities descended upon a yearly meeting of FIFA officials, making arrests that have kicked up a storm of scandal and controversy in the world of soccer that merely existed—barely— below the surface for the last two decades.
The indictments made on behalf of the United States Department of Justice include charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering adding up to $150 million USD.
The racketeering charges alone hold the possibility of 20 plus years in prison.
Switzerland is pursuing its own investigation relating to corruption and bribery in connection with the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host selections. Swiss authorities also seized electronic data and documents at FIFA’s head office in Zurich.
Most of the officials that were arrested belong to CONCACAF (North and Central America, and the Caribbean), one of FIFA’s six confederations.
According to The Washington Post, four of those indicted have already pleaded guilty and are “likely to be cooperating.”
FIFA, a billion dollar enterprise, has long been accused of wide-ranging corruption that has typically gone unchecked. Current and former presidents of CONCACAF, Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, were among the officials charged with racketeering and bribery according to the Justice Department.
It makes sense for the Justice Department to first go after the corruption in their own backyard—big fish and all, in hopes that they will flip and turn states’ evidence against bigger, international fish. Perhaps leading all the way up to Sepp Blatter.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter is regarded as the head of the snake and simultaneous kingmaker in regards to potential World Cup host cities.
Blatter has yet to be named in an indictment but the Department of Justice, FBI, and IRS have made it clear that this is only the beginning of their investigation. The use of United States banks and financial institutions in the commission of these crimes has drawn an epic level of ire from the United States government.
Blatter was right in avoiding travel to the United States as of late. However, if anything has been proven today, the arm of the law is an extraordinarily long one and it stretches across oceans and it is multi-national. Just as FIFA began to make strides in the North American market, their hopes and aspirations have come crashing down.
The days of FIFA’s unfettered corruption have come to an end. It won’t be the only thing coming to an end. The next thing to come to an end is the guilty parties’ freedom.
The New York Times
The Washington Post