FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges: Latest Details and Reaction

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent III

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Swiss law enforcement arrested FIFA officials on May 27 in Zurich at the Baur au Lac hotel on federal corruption charges that include racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

Matt Apuzzo, Stephanie Clifford and William K. Rashbaum of the New York Times reported the news, indicating the FIFA officials will be extradited to the United States to be charged. Two separate investigations will be carried out—one by Swiss officials, the other by Americans.

Continue for updates.


Former FIFA Executive Chuck Blazer's Plea Unsealed

Wednesday, June 3

"I and others on FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with selection of South Africa as host nation," Blazer said, according to Sky Sports' Bryan Swanson.

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated provided Blazer's full guilty plea.


FIFA Secretary General Reportedly Transferred Money in Bribery Case

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Monday, June 1

Jerome Valcke, FIFA secretary general, reportedly is the unidentified “high-ranking FIFA official” who is accused of transferring $10 million from FIFA to soccer official Jack Warner in 2008, according to William K. Rashbaum and Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times:

The indictment does not say that the high-ranking official knew that the money was being used as a bribe and, unlike many other FIFA officials and marketing executives, Mr. Valcke is not identified as a co-conspirator in the document. Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of South Africa’s World Cup bid and the current president of its soccer federation, has said the money was not a bribe but a legitimate payment into a soccer development fund in the Caribbean.

Mr. Valcke, who said in a brief email that he had not authorized the payment and did not have the power to do so, has not been charged or accused of wrongdoing.


CONCACAF Provisionally Dismisses Webb, Li

Thursday, May 28

Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com passed along confirmation from CONCACAF that the organization had dismissed Jeff Webb and Eduardo Li following their arrests. Alfredo Hawit has been installed as the new president.

Planet Futbol also shared news that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and the presidents of the Canadian and Mexican federations were named to a special committee to evaluate CONCACAF. 

The actions come on the heels of Wednesday's statement from CONCACAF on the arrests:

The Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) is deeply concerned by today’s developments, in the arrest of several international football officials including those belonging to our Confederation.  

The Confederation will continue to cooperate with the authorities to its fullest capacity. 

At present, CONCACAF is not in a position to comment further on the specific allegations, which have been referred to the appropriate legal counsel through the pertinent channels. 

CONCACAF continues to operate in the ordinary course of business, hosting all of its upcoming tournaments in a successful and timely manner, including the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

U.S. Soccer also commented on the news via a release on its website:

The United States Soccer Federation firmly believes there is no higher priority, and nothing more important, than protecting the integrity of our game. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and business practices, and we will continue to encourage CONCACAF and FIFA to promote the same values. Out of respect for the ongoing investigation, we will not speculate or comment further on this matter at this time. 


Warner Plans to Reveal Blatter Gifts

Thursday, May 28

ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported that Warner told the Trinidad Guardian that he plans to "reveal gifts that Sepp Blatter made in his election campaigns." 

Warner has been one of the central figures in the corruption scandal since it broke on Wednesday. 

The former FIFA executive turned himself in to police on May 27, according to ABC News (via Fox Soccer). 

Prior to Warner's surrender, Ben Burrows of the Mirror provided comments from the 72-year-old, who maintained his innocence: 

I have fought fearlessly against all forms of injustice and corruption.

I have been afforded no due process and I have not even been questioned in this matter. I reiterate that I am innocent of any charges. I have walked away from the politics of world football to immerse myself in the improvement of lives in this country where I shall, God willing, die.

Warner also issued a statement on his Facebook page regarding the charges:


FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges

Wednesday, May 27

Among those charged on May 27 were Webb and Eugenio Figueredo, vice presidents of the executive committee, and former executive committee member Jack Warner. Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, Jose Maria Marin and Nicolas Leoz were also targeted.

Owen Gibson of the Guardian provided Switzerland's Office of Justice's full statement:

Sky Sports provided a summary of the separate U.S. probe:

FIFA released an official statement on its website, detailing the two concurrent investigations:

Firstly, the arrest of six individuals this morning in Zurich concerns investigations by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of the State of New York. The Swiss authorities, acting on behalf of their US counterparts, arrested the individuals for activities carried out in relation with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business.

The second instance follows FIFA’s initiative of presenting the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General in November 2014. The authorities are taking the opportunity of the FIFA Congress to interview those FIFA Executive Committee members who are not Swiss residents who voted back in 2010 and are still in office.

The statement notes FIFA is "fully cooperating" and is "supporting the collection of evidence." It concludes: "We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken."

FIFA also announced that it was banning Webb, Li, Rocha, Takkas, Warner, Figueredo, Esquivel, Marin, Leoz, Blazer and Daryll Warner from football-related activities.

As reported in the aforementioned New York Times article, the FBI-backed U.S. investigation relates to "bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals, according to three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case."

Many have questioned the lack of transparency around the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, to be held in Russia and Qatar, respectively. Gibson confirmed that the handing-over of both tournaments is now being looked into by authorities:

Martyn Ziegler of the Press Association added further information:

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland released a statement on how the two investigations will be carried out:

For reasons of criminal procedure (principle of proportionality), the procedure coordinated with the requested acts of the U.S. authorities was designed in such a way as to allow the procurement of any criminally relevant data in an effective manner, and to avoid any possible collusion. These measures were carried out simultaneously as a large number of persons involved in allocating the World Cups were currently in Zurich.

These legal actions concern two criminal procedures conducted separately by the OAG and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The Swiss and US law enforcement authorities are not conducting any joint investigations, but are coordinating their respective criminal proceedings.

Ziegler confirmed guilty pleas have already been attained:

During FIFA's reactive press conference on Wednesday, spokesman Walter de Gregorio suggested the organisation approves of the examination into its processes, per Ziegler:

Harris and Gibson provided further comments from De Gregorio:

The hosting of the next two World Cup tournaments won't be affected, Ziegler tweeted:

Prior to FIFA's presser, Borden provided a photo as law enforcement officials descended on the hotel in Switzerland:

Borden also reported more details on the scene:

Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated weighed in on the impending extradition:

Harris noted that the Swiss justice ministry said that six of the seven arrested oppose extradition to the United States.

The New York Times' coverage indicates alongside footballing officials, the charges will be brought against sports-marketing executives based in the U.S. and South America. It is reported such figures are accused of paying in excess of $150 million in bribes to secure media campaigns for major tournaments within football.

Marketing executives Alejandro Burzaco, Aaron Davidson, Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis are named, with Jose Margulies being charged with facilitating the payments.

Harris tweeted knowledge of FIFA documents being inspected:

What made the arrests feasible in the first place is the treaty between the U.S. and Switzerland. Per the New York Times report, the treaty states the Swiss agree to hand over people staying in their country for prosecution in the U.S. on matters of general criminal law.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 27:  FIFA President Sepp Blatter arrives for meetings at the Culloden Hotel on February 27, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Blatter is attending the International Football Association Board AGM which is taking place
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Based on that understanding, it appears the FIFA officials will indeed be charged and tried in the U.S. FIFA has been shrouded in secrecy and seen as a mostly unchecked, powerful governing body that presides over the world's most popular sport.

While these arrests are certainly an unwelcome distraction for Blatter, CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin and Greg Botelho noted that it could be worse, stating, "Blatter is not one of those arrested or facing charges by U.S. authorities, but he was among those investigated."

Despite that, Sky Sports News HQ reported that Blatter and other Swiss internationals working for FIFA were told that they can't leave Switzerland until further notice.

Blatter also issued a statement through FIFA on the day's events: 

This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organisation. We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us.

As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.

While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take. In fact, today’s action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.

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 the events of today, the independent Ethics Committee – which is in the midst of its own proceedings regarding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups -- took swift action to provisionally ban those individuals named by the authorities from any football-related activities at the national and international level. These actions are on top of similar steps that FIFA has taken over the past year to exclude any members who violate our own Code of Ethics.

We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing. 

 While these arrests mark a major step towards targeting those abusing power within FIFA, all eyes will be at the top of the organization, looking to see what Blatter's fate will be as the investigations continue.

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