[JURIST] US prosecutors on Wednesday charged [indictment, PdF] 14 top FIFA [official website] officials with offenses including racketeering, money laundering and bribery, alleging that the men used partnerships with sports marketing executives to solicit more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to support various sites of FIFA World Cup [official website] events. The prosecutors claim that at least some of the defendants, nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives, have participated in the scheme to enrich themselves for over two decades. As soccer officials from around the world met in Zurich this week to attend the annual FIFA Congress [official website], authorities in Switzerland arrested seven of the defendants. Federal investigators were also searching for defendants at the CONCACAF [official website] headquarters in Miami. The seven arrested in Switzerland, including FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb [official profile], may face extradition to the US on federal corruption charges. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch [official profile] remarked in a statement [press release]:
The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. … [I]t 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. … 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.
According to Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) [official website] the arrests were made at the request of American legal authorities following an investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York [official website].
FIFA has long been accused of corruption, but this is the largest case ever assembled against the organization in regards to those types of allegations. FBI Director James Comey [official profile] stated [USA Today Report], “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA.” An issue [Wired report] with the organization is that in its voting for a president and executive committee, each of the 209 member nations gets a single vote. Also, each country receives an equal share of FIFA’s revenues. Therefore, there is less incentive for the smaller, poorer countries to attempt to change any of the structure to the voting process.