What you need to know about the FIFA Corruption Scandal

While you may have been sleeping, 14 people from inside and outside of FIFA were indicted and nine were arrested in Zurich along with the others being arrested at some point in various parts of the world. Information has been coming in very rapidly and many of you aren’t up to speed yet. This is lengthy but here’s what you need to know. The New York Times has been on the forefront of reporting what has happened and much of the info is reported by the New York Times.

 

What happened?

In a scene that would be straight out of Goodfellas, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice and Swiss agents went into the Baur au Lac hotel Wednesday morning to arrest those indicted for crimes like wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering. They are there because of the annual FIFA Congress meeting taking place this week along with Friday’s FIFA Presidential election. The US Department of Justice has been gathering evidence for years to prepare for the raid.

 

Who is indicted?

Here is the list of 14 names being indicted:

Jeffrey Webb – CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President
Eugenio Figueredo – Former CONMEBOL President
Jack Warner – Former CONCACAF President and former FIFA Vice President
Eduardo Li – Costa Rica Football Federation President
Julio Rocha – Nicaraguan Football Federation President
Costas Takkas – Cayman Islands FA General Secretary
Rafael Esquivel – Venezuelan Football Federation President
Jose Maria Marin – Former Brazilian Football Confederation President
Nicolas Leoz – Former CONMEBOL President

Alejandro Burzaco –  TV Executive in Argentina
Aaron Davidson – Chairman of the Board, North American Soccer League (NASL)
Hugo Jinkis – Soccer TV Executive
Mariano Jinkis – Soccer TV Executive
Jose Margulies – Middleman between the executives and those within FIFA to provide payments

 

Why is the United States investigating?

It makes sense that Switzerland would have a stake in investigating FIFA. FIFA is based in Zurich and therefore, Switzerland has jurisdiction. But how does the United States enter into this? The United States government argues that money from illegal activities involved US banks and based on US law, that gives the government jurisdiction to investigate.

Also, CONCACAF headquarters is in Miami, Florida and with the current and former CONCACAF Presidents being indicted, that also gives the US jurisdiction. As we speak, CONCACAF headquarters is being raided by FBI and IRS officials.

 

What are the authorities saying?

Both the Swiss Federal Office of Justice and US Department of Justice have released statements about the indictments.

Here’s the Swiss Federal Office of Justice statement.

“The six soccer functionaries were arrested today in Zurich by the Zurich Cantonal Police . The FOJ’s arrest warrants were issued further to a request by the US authorities. The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day. The bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries – delegates of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations – totaling more than USD 100 million. In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America. According to the US request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and payments were carried out via US banks.”

The US Department of Justice has a lengthy statement that you can read here but here are the main points.

“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 defendants charged in the indictment include high-ranking officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the organization responsible for the regulation and promotion of soccer worldwide, as well as leading officials of other soccer governing bodies that operate under the FIFA umbrella.  Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States – are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses.  The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

“Also earlier this morning, Swiss authorities in Zurich arrested seven of the defendants charged in the indictment, the defendants Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin, at the request of the United States.  Also this morning, a search warrant is being executed at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami, Florida.”

“The guilty pleas of the four individual and two corporate defendants that were also unsealed today include the guilty pleas of Charles Blazer, the long-serving former general secretary of CONCACAF and former U.S. representative on the FIFA executive committee; José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a multinational sports marketing conglomerate headquartered in Brazil; and two of Hawilla’s companies, Traffic Sports International Inc. and Traffic Sports USA Inc., which is based in Florida.”

““The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said 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.””

 
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About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them. Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp

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