United States officials have brought charges against current and former leaders of FIFA, the group that governs the sport of football around the world. A U.S. federal indictment accuses them of corruption and other wrongdoing. On Wednesday, the Swiss government announced its own investigation connected to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup championships. Swiss police arrested several FIFA officials in Zurich.
The U.S. indictment includes 47 charges against 14 people. Federal lawyers say sports media officials paid or agreed to pay more than $150 million in exchange for marketing rights to football events. The sport is known as soccer in the United States.
The Justice Department said the FIFA officials were carrying out a 24-year plan to “enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer."
Swiss officials said seven FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday. They were sent to the United States for a court hearing.
The U.S. Justice Department said officials executed a search order at FIFA’s offices in Miami, Florida. It also said four individuals have already admitted guilt in the corruption investigation.
US says corruption is “rampant”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said corruption in FIFA is "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted." She said there are many victims in the case.
James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the system of paying for favored treatment "became a way of doing business at FIFA."
Switzerland said it opened criminal action against a group of individuals in connection with the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The individuals are suspected of mismanagement and financial crimes. A Swiss statement said officials had seized data and documents from FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
FIFA's ethics committee investigated similar reports last year. In November, the committee announced that there were only "limited" violations and not enough evidence of illegal payments in awarding the tournaments.
'Difficult' moment for FIFA
FIFA said it is fully cooperating with both U.S. and Swiss investigators. International football’s governing group said it is in the "highest interest" of the organization that all questions are answered.
Director of Communication and Public Affairs Walter De Gregorio told reporters that the cases mark a "difficult moment" for FIFA. But he said there will be no changes to the upcoming tournaments. "The World Cup in 2018 and 2022 will be played in Russia and Qatar," he said. The official also said FIFA welcomed the investigative process, “in terms of cleaning up.” “It is the only way to go,” he added.
Mr. De Gregorio also said that FIFA President Sepp Blatter is not involved in either investigation. The current and former officials arrested Wednesday were in Zurich for FIFA meetings. The meetings are to include a vote that could give Mr. Blatter a fifth term as the group’s president. His opponent, Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, released a statement saying it was "a sad day for football."
Top FIFA Officials Accused
Those named in the U.S. indictment include five officials, along with current FIFA Vice Presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo and former vice president Jack Warner. Daryll and Daryan Warner, sons of Jack Warner, are among those who have already entered guilty pleas.
The indictment describes reported plots involving payments related to the Brazilian national soccer federation's sponsorship by a U.S. clothing manufacturer. The choice of the 2010 World Cup host and the 2011 FIFA presidential election are also under investigation.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Words in this Story
indictment – n. an official written statement charging a person with a crime
rampant – adj. used to describe something that is very common or that is spreading very quickly and in a way that is difficult to control
data – n. facts or information used usually to calculate, analyze, or plan something
ethics – n. rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad
plea – n. a statement in which a person who has been accused of a crime says in court that he or she is guilty or not guilty of the crime
sponsor – n. a person or organization that pays the cost of an activity or event in exchange for the right to advertise during the activity or event
Are you surprised by the arrests and charges against FIFA officials? Do you think the investigations are good for professional football?