Top FIFA officials arrested, indicted on corruption charges
Several top FIFA officials were arrested and will be indicted Wednesday morning on corruption charges, which the United States Justice Department said stem from decades of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption by members of world soccer's governing body.
Fourteen people will be charged when a 47-count indictment is unsealed in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York on Wednesday.
Four individuals and two corporate defendants have already pleaded guilty to charges. The Justice Department said that the defendants are charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies in a two-decade scheme to make themselves rich "through the corruption of international soccer."
Just hours later, 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.
"By order of the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), six soccer officials were arrested in Zurich today (Wednesday) and detained pending extradition. The U.S. authorities suspect them of having received bribes totaling in the USD millions," Swiss officials said in a statement.
Among those indicted were current CONCACAF president and FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb, former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, and former President of the Uruguayan Football Association and former Vice President of CONMEBOL, Eugenio Figueredo.
The officials were gathering in Switzerland for their annual meeting and face extradition to the United States.
According to the indictment, the corruption started in 1991 with various members of FIFA "engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering."
Also indicted are Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin and Nicolás Leoz.
On Wednesday, Paraguay said it had received an extradition request for Leoz related to the FIFA investigation, according to the Associated Press.
Charges were also brought 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 indictment, the defendants were paid $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in efforts to score lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.
The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) headquarters in Miami were also raided as part of the investigation.
FIFA said its presidential election will go on as scheduled on Friday, with current leader Sepp Blatter running against Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. Blatter is widely expected to win a fifth term.
FIFA says Blatter is not involved in the corruption scandal and that it doesn't plan to re-vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
"He is not one of the ones arrested. He is not involved at all," FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told The Associated Press. "We are trying to find out more from the police."
It is not clear if the investigation is linked to the 1994 World Cup hosted by the United States.
"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," U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch said.
The World Cup qualifiers in the CONCACAF region, the Gold Cup, the CONCACAF Champions League, the Copa America and the Copa Libertadores were all tainted by officials taking bribes and kick-backs, according to the indictment.
The FBI has been investigating corruption charges against FIFA with regard to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. FIFA has been widely criticized for corruption and commissioned a report earlier this year to investigate the bid process but found no improprieties.
Earlier this month, Blatter denied an ESPN report that he is avoiding the United States because of the FBI investigation and said he will visit the country in 2016.
- Molly Geary and Scooby Axson