The United States Department of Justice has arrested 14 top FIFA officials for allegedly fostering ‘ a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world. It involves more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks within two decades. The arrest which includes nine current or former FIFA figures and five involved in sports marketing, was effected through a series of overnight busts, having been on the investigation trail for three years according to FBI Director James Comey
The FIFA officials were alleged to have connived and obtained monetary gratification to ensure that the next two World Cups are held in Russia for 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The U.S. was runner-up to Qatar’s win.
“In short, these individuals, through these organizations, engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” Lynch said at a press conference today in New York.
Other reports say, Ex-FIFA official Jack Warner, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and legal resident of the U.S., allegedly agreed to accept bribes before the South Africa World Cup decision –- including a briefcase full of American cash given to an unnamed co-conspirator in a Paris hotel room.
Mr. Warner has turned himself into Trinidad and Tobago police authorities today. He faces extradition to the U.S.
FIFA’s longtime president, Sepp Blatter, who is bidding for a fifth term and who who has served as president for 17 years, is not among the officials implicated or arrested, but his tenure has been marked by numerous scandals. In a reaction, Blatter wrote on FIFA’s website –
“Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game,”
Following news of the arrests, European soccer officials released a statement on the Union of European Football Associations, FIFA’s European continental confederation calling for the delay of FIFA’s presidential election
“Today’s events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole … These events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA’s culture. There is a need for the whole of FIFA to be ‘rebooted’ and for real reform to be carried out.”