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FIFA Corruption Investigation: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured Columnist

FILE - In this May 23, 2012,  file photo,  newly elected president of CONCACAF Jeffrey Webb, right,  talks to FIFA President Sepp Blatter as they arrive at the meeting of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football prior to the two-day congress of FIFA in Budapest, Hungary. Webb has been extradited to the United States following his arrest in Switzerland on racketeering and bribery charges filed by American prosecutors. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said Thursday, July 16, 2015, the man was extradited a day earlier after 50 days of detention. U.S. authorities have said more indictments could follow, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter is a target of the widening case. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP, File)
Associated Press

Arrest warrants have been issued after nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were indicted on charges of "racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies" on May 27, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Swiss authorities carried out a raid on Zurich's Baur au Lac hotel on May 26, as both U.S. and Swiss officials investigate alleged corruption within football's governing body that may stretch back two decades. This includes the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

Sepp Blatter appeared to resign as FIFA president on June 2 amid the situation, although he later denied having done so. Now the U.S. is looking to extradite seven FIFA officials.

Continue for updates.


Warner's Extradition Hearing Delayed

Monday, July 27

The Associated Press passed along word of the delay for former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, with a new hearing being set for August 28.

Warner's fight against extradition comes as the United States government has tried to extradite the main figures in the corruption scandal.

"The USA has asked Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich. The formal extradition requests were submitted to the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) yesterday evening," said the Swiss Federal Office of Justice in a July 2 statement, per Paul Kelso of Sky News.

The FOJ statement added:

The seven FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich on 27 May 2015 on the basis of a request from the USA, and detained pending extradition. On 1st July 2015, the US embassy in Bern submitted the formal extradition requests within the deadline laid down in the bilateral extradition treaty.


Former FIFA VP Pleads Not Guilty 

Saturday, July 18

Fox Soccer reported former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb pleaded not guilty to corruption charges. Webb served as FIFA VP and president of CONCACAF—the football confederation for North America, Central America and the Caribbean—from May 2012 until May 2015, when he was indicted for the corruption charges.

On July 17, the Associated Press (via ESPN FC) confirmed Webb had "arrived in the United States to face racketeering and bribery charges... Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Norris told a Brooklyn judge Friday that Jeffrey Webb had been extradited from Switzerland. The prosecutor says no court date has been set for Webb."


Bolivian Football Chief Arrested 

Friday, July 17

The BBC reported Bolivia Football Federation President Carlos Chavez was arrested for accusations of "alleged corruption in the management of resources," according to Bolivia's public prosecutor. The BBC report also stated Chaves is the treasurer of CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation.


Whistleblower Chuck Blazer Shown Lifelong Red Card by FIFA 

Thursday, July 9

"Fifa bans former Exco member and CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer for life," revealed Dan Roan of BBC Sport.

Blazer's plea agreement, unsealed at the request of U.S. district judge Raymond J. Dearie, showed he has been an informant for the U.S. government dating back to 2013, per Sports Illustrated on June 15.

On June 3, Blazer's confession implicated FIFA in bribery allegations: "I and others on FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with selection of South Africa as host nation," Blazer admitted, according to a tweet from Sky Sports' Bryan Swanson.

"I and others agreed bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with broadcast and other rights to '96, '98, '00, '02 and '03 Gold Cups," Blazer continued.

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated provided Blazer's full plea, while Alexander Abnos of Sports Illustrated and Chris Cook of the BBC's Newsnight highlighted critical portions pertaining to locations of transactions and a bribe surrounding the 1998 World Cup:

Alexander Abnos @AnAbnos

Been covered before, but note Blazer's emphasis on location of transactions. That's how USDOJ claims jurisdiction. http://t.co/Aa0IgFMqmU

Chris Cook @xtophercook

The Blazer testimony cuts to the chase. To be clear, older docs show 1998 bribe is from Morocco, not France. http://t.co/kK1t7rU91n


2018, 2022 World Cup Bid Inspector Banned as Blatter Defends Russia and Qatar 

Monday, July 6

The Associated Press passed along word of the seven-year ban for FIFA chief inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls as the controversy continues to swirl around the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

The news came a day after FIFA president Sepp Blatter said French and German presidents tried to sway the vote that awarded the 2022 tournament to Qatar, reported by German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, per Ciaran Fahey of the Associated Press:

Messrs [Nicolas] Sarkozy and [Christian] Wulff tried to influence their voting representatives. That's why we now have a World Cup in Qatar. Those who decided it should take responsibility for it. I act on the leadership principal. If a majority of the executive committee wants a World Cup in Qatar then I have to accept that.

Blatter went on to claim Wulff recommended the German federation "vote for Qatar out of economic interests."

"Look at the German companies!" he said before naming railway and construction firms. "Deutsche Bahn, Hochtief and many more had projects in Qatar even before the World Cup was awarded."

On June 17, the Swiss attorney general's office announced it had collected evidence from FIFA to aid the investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes. Graham Dunbar of the Associated Press provided the main takeaways from attorney general Michael Lauber's findings:

Swiss banks have noted 53 possible money-laundering incidents in the investigation of FIFA's 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Michael Lauber said the "suspicious bank relations" were reported within the framework of Switzerland's anti-money laundering regulations.

Lauber said he "does not exclude" interviewing FIFA President Sepp Blatter and secretary-general Jerome Valcke in the future, though neither are currently under suspicion.

FIFA official Domenico Scala told Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung (via BBC Sport) on June 7: "Should there be evidence that the awards to Qatar and Russia came only because of bought votes, then the awards could be cancelled. ... Until today, the respective evidence has not been provided."

Despite the perceived corruption in regard to the bid, James Masters of CNN provided a release from Qatar on May 29 that stated there was no wrongdoing with regard to the nation's successful bid:

James Masters @Masters_JamesD

Qatar 2022 says it conducted bid with "integrity and highest ethical standards." #FIFA https://t.co/5FdZc8eMdG


Blatter Fires Back at Critics After Denying Resignation

Wednesday, July 1

"I have a clean conscience," Blatter declared, as he categorically denied accusations of corruption during an interview with German magazine Bunte (via the Guardian). He continued:

If somebody accuses me of being corrupt, I ask him whether he knows the meaning of that word. Whoever calls me corrupt will have to prove it, but nobody can prove that because I am not corrupt.

I am open to correct or positive criticism. I can use that to reconsider if I need to change in the future. But if anybody calls me corrupt because Fifa is corrupt, I can only shake my head. Everybody who says something like that should go to jail.

My faith has given me strength during the last week. I am a religious person and pray, too. I own a golden cross that has been blessed by Pope Francis. I believe I will go to heaven one day. But I believe there is no hell. I disagree with the pope on that.

Blatter initially appeared to have resigned as FIFA president on June 2, per BBC News, but later backtracked in an interview with Blick, per Eurosport's Tom Adams.


Warner Investigated Over Haiti Earthquake Funds

Tuesday, June 9

Warner "has been investigated by U.S. prosecutors over the disappearance of money meant for victims of the Haiti earthquake," reported BBC News.

Previous "documents suggest [Warner] used the payment for cash withdrawals, personal loans and to launder money," according to BBC's Ed Thomas. "The papers seen by the BBC detail three wire transfers by FIFA. In the three transactions—on 4 January, 1 February and 10 March 2008—funds totalling $10m (£6.5m) from FIFA accounts were received into Concacaf accounts controlled by Jack Warner."

The 72-year-old politician—who was one of 14 people indicted on May 27 in the wake of investigations into FIFA corruption, per BBC News—has promised full disclosure of his knowledge on FIFA dealings. 

"I apologise for not disclosing my knowledge of these events before," Warner told Sky News on June 4. "Not even death will stop the avalanche that is coming. The die is cast. There can be no turning back. Let the chips fall where they fall."

Interpol released a Red Notice—or wanted persons alert—for his and five others' arrest on June 3.


FIFA Vows to Cooperate With Investigation

Tuesday, June 2

FIFA previously detailed the two individual investigations in its official statement, saying it is "fully cooperating" with both.

Jeffrey Webb, FIFA vice-president and executive committee member, is among those charged. Warner, Leoz, Eugenio Figueredo, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, Jose Maria Marin and Eduardo Li have also been indicted, reported by Matt Apuzzo, Stephanie Clifford and William K. Rashbaum of the New York Times.

David McKenzie of CNN tweeted a prominent graphic:

David McKenzie @McKenzieCNN

This graphic of FIFA leadership is extraordinary. http://t.co/tTLOyrJKCa

Although yet to be confirmed by authorities, Josh Margolin and Susanna Kim of ABC News report Blatter is under FBI investigation: "Sources familiar with the case told ABC News today that Blatter is being investigated by the FBI and U.S. prosecutors as part of the probe that led to last week's stunning indictments."

Interpol's Red Notices suggest authorities are closing in on those involved in corruption within FIFA, so if Blatter is to receive attention, it will likely be officially confirmed soon. With Blazer's plea now public, Warner may hold the next batch of pivotal information for both investigations.

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