Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the United States is meddling and interfering in the affairs of soccer’s governing body in an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country and to stop FIFA president Sepp Blatter's re-election.
The United States Department of Justice charged 14 people in a 47-count indictment Wednesday, accusing some of FIFA's top current and former officials of widespread corruption over several decades.
The DOJ handed down charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, saying there was "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted" corruption by members of FIFA.
Putin said it was strange that the FIFA corruption investigation was started at the request of U.S. officials for crimes that did not involve its citizens and did not happen within its borders.
“Unfortunately our American partners are using these methods in order to achieve their own selfish gains, and it is illegal to persecute people. I would not rule out that in regards to FIFA, the same thing could be happening, though I do not know how it will end,” Putin said, according to RT.com.
Swiss federal prosecutors opened separate criminal proceedings relating to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were won by Russia and Qatar, respectively. FIFA said no re-vote will take place for those tournaments.
Putin said the U.S. is attempting to put “pressure" on Blatter because he supports the World Cup being hosted by Russia and wondered why the raids and indictment announcement happened just days before the FIFA presidential election.
FIFA said its presidential election will go on as scheduled on Friday, with Blatter running against Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. Blatter is widely expected to win a fifth four-year term.
“However, the fact that this is happening right on the eve of the FIFA presidential elections, gives one this exact impression,” Putin said.
“This is yet one more attempt to try and impose the law against other states. I am absolutely sure that this is an attempt to try and stop Blatter from being re-elected as FIFA president, which is a grave breach of the principles of a functioning international organization," he added.
- Scooby Axson