Europe

Fifa corruption inquiries: Officials arrested in Zurich

  • 27 May 2015
  • From the section Europe
Journalists are reflected in a logo at the FIFA headquarters after a meeting of the executive committee in Zurich on 4 October 2013

Two criminal investigations into corruption at football's world governing body Fifa are under way, with seven top officials arrested in Zurich.

The seven are among 14 indicted on corruption charges in a US inquiry, the US Department of Justice said.

The second criminal case was launched by Swiss prosecutors into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, to be held in Russia and Qatar respectively.

But Fifa says it plans to go ahead with an election for president as planned.

Incumbent president Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term, was not one of the seven officials arrested.

Fifa also said there would be no rerun of the World Cup bidding processes for 2018 and 2022.

Image caption The raid took place at a five-star hotel in Zurich early on Wednesday

Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan - Mr Blatter's rival for the Fifa presidency - said "we cannot continue with the crisis in Fifa".

"Fifa needs leadership that governs, guides and protects our national associations."

Fifa's Zurich headquarters has also been raided, with electronic data and documents seized. US authorities also searched the headquarters of Concacaf - the Fifa confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean - in Miami, Florida, as part of their investigations.

'Rampant, systemic, deep-rooted'

The US justice department said 14 individuals were under investigation worldwide for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period.

Image caption The Fifa executives indicted include Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leoz, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin

The seven arrested at a five-star hotel in Zurich on Wednesday were:

  • Jeffrey Webb - head of Concacaf, and Fifa vice-president
  • Costa Rica's national football chief Eduardo Li, who was due to join Fifa's executive committee on Friday
  • Uruguay's Eugenio Figueredo, president of South American football governing body Conmebol
  • Venezuelan Football Federation president Rafael Esquivel
  • Brazil's Jose Maria Marin, a member of Fifa's club committee
  • Fifa development officer Julio Rocha, from Nicaragua
  • Costas Takkas, of the UK, an attache to the Concacaf president

Also indicted are former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Aaron Davidson, Alejandro Burzaco, Jose Margulies, and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis.

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

"Today's announcement should send a message that enough is enough," Acting US Attorney Kelly Currie said.

Several officials have already pleaded guilty, the US Department of Justice says. These include Charles "Chuck" Blazer, the former head of Concacaf, who was previously on the Fifa executive committee.

Image caption The BBC 's Nick Bryant tweeted this diagram from US prosecutors showing the alleged scheme

Mr Blazer, one of Fifa's most senior US representatives, allegedly started working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and took part in undercover work, according to US media reports.

Mr Warner reacted to the news by saying he had not been questioned and was innocent of any charges.

He said that since leaving Fifa four years ago "I have recommitted my life to the work of improving the lot of every citizen of every creed and race in this nation (Trinidad and Tobago)... I have fought fearlessly against all forms of injustice and corruption."

He added: "The actions of Fifa no longer concern me."


Football's untouchable 'dark prince' - Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Switzerland

Many have wondered how Sepp Blatter can have been in charge of Fifa for so long amid so many reports of corruption and yet remain, apparently, untouched.

One Swiss newspaper jokingly called him "the dark prince of football, the godfather, Don Blatterone" - but no inquiry has ever revealed proof of his involvement in corruption.

"He's a survivor," says one member of parliament, Roland Buechel. "Nothing ever sticks to him; there is always someone between him and the bribes."

Some old friends describe Mr Blatter as down-to-earth and open. Others who have worked with him say he is a man who resents opposition, pointing to the swift departure of Fifa colleagues who dared to question him.

What emerges, finally, is a man who both critics and supporters say cannot imagine his life without Fifa, a man whose tenure as president has outlasted three marriages.

But as scandal follows scandal, Mr Blatter's determination not to leave his post willingly could see him bundled unceremoniously out of the back door.

Sepp Blatter: The man who won't give up


'Right track'

Fifa "welcomes the process and co-operates fully with the attorney general of Switzerland," spokesman Walter DeGregorio told reporters on Wednesday.

"It is certainly a difficult moment for us," he said, "but this is good for Fifa. It confirms that we are on the right track".

Media captionFifa spokesman Walter De Gregorio: "This confirms that we are on the right track"

Both Swiss and US justice officials said the indicted officials had allegedly received $150m worth of bribes from the early 1990s for football tournaments in the US and Latin America.

The alleged crimes were agreed to and prepared in the US via US bank accounts, the office of the Swiss prosecutor said, adding that the Swiss authorities could immediately approve the extradition.

In the second case, Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings "against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups".

Swiss police said they would question 10 Fifa executive committee members who participated in the votes that selected Russia and Qatar in December 2010.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said the investigation would not affect its hosting of the 2018 event, telling Associated Press: "We've got nothing to hide."

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