Nine FIFA officials and 5 corporate executives were arrested Wednesday morning in Zurich, Switzerland. However, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not charged and released an official statement later in the day (http://fifa.to/1QaqpCq). FIFA said they expect the presidential election to go ahead as scheduled for Friday, May 29th, although UEFA has called for the election to be postponed.
The U.S. Department of Justice released a statement saying: “A 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer. The guilty pleas of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants were also unsealed today.”
The fact that the Justice Department statement cites a history of 24 years just shows how much corruption has become rooted in the game of soccer. It’s heartening to see something finally being done about FIFA’s corruption but it also makes the beautiful game look so ugly.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “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. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable. Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort…I’m not able to comment further on Mr. Blatter’s status.”
Swiss prosecutors said they have opened criminal proceedings against unidentified individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering relating to the awarding the rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
This might just be the biggest day in the history of football/soccer. This investigation and these arrests acknowledge the sport has been corrupted for a long while and a revolution may not be far off. This is a very important first step that should send a strong message to the rest of the football world. Eventually Sepp Blatter needs to be banned from all football activities and never permitted near the sport ever again. He is a disgusting, power-thirsty man who has ruined and tainted the image of the beautiful game. For FIFA to become a seriously credible and well-run organization more than just 14 people or Blatter have to be changed. The whole system in which the organization functions needs to be improved. This day is a vital step in the right direction for the sport and hopefully positive changes will come.
The indicted defendants:
• Jeffrey Webb: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.
• Eduardo Li: Current FIFA executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.
• Julio Rocha: Current FIFA development officer. Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president.
• Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president. Former CIFA general secretary.
• Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.
• Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member. Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.
• Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president.
• José Maria Marin: Current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments. Former CBF president.
• Nicolás Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.
Four of the defendants were sports marketing executives:
• Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
• Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc. (Traffic USA).
• Hugo and Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
And one of the defendants was in the broadcasting business but allegedly served as an intermediary to facilitate illicit payments between sports marketing executives and soccer officials:
José Margulies: Controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd.