POSTED: May 27th 2015
ViewPoint

FIFA Congress and elections shrouded in drama after federal arrests in Zurich and New York

May 26th photo of FIFA President Sepp Blatter (center) and Jeffrey Webb (left),Current FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president, before he was taken away today © Alexander Hassenstein - FIFA
May 26th photo of FIFA President Sepp Blatter (center) and Jeffrey Webb (left),Current FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president, before he was taken away today © Alexander Hassenstein - FIFA

Attorney General Loretta Lynch Lynch is on a mission to get to the bottom of the US$150m+ bribes and kickbacks © Spencer Platt Getty Images
Attorney General Loretta Lynch Lynch is on a mission to get to the bottom of the US$150m+ bribes and kickbacks © Spencer Platt Getty Images

Miami police raided the CONCACAF headquarters this morning in Miami Beach, Florida © Getty Images
Miami police raided the CONCACAF headquarters this morning in Miami Beach, Florida © Getty Images

LAURA WALDEN (USA) / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The US Justice Department unleashed a scathing 47-count indictment this morning in Brooklyn, New York against FIFA officials and five corporate executives as Swiss officials stormed the luxury five-star Baur au Lac Hotel  in Zurich at 6am confiscating people to face charges.

This cracks wide open a seething network of fraud as described in British writer Andrew Jennings' latest book Omerta detailing explicitly innumerable instances of mishandling of funds.

The FIFA annual congress is taking place in Zurich and on the agenda is a vote over the leadership on Friday. FIFA President Sepp Blatter is being challenged for his fifth term in office by Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan in what has certainly come down to the most turbulent election in the organization's history.

The US team laid down charges on 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants' participation "in a scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer". They also have a time span going back 24 years and to the average soccer fan one would wonder how FIFA had their hand in the cookie jar for so long without getting caught.

In a public press conference Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie of the Eastern District of New York, Director James B. Comey of the FBI, Assistant Director in Charge Diego W. Rodriguez of the FBI's New York Field Office, Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez of the IRS-CI's Los Angeles Field Office explained the indictment and took questions.

Attorney General Lynch said, "Beginning in 1991, two generations of soccer officials ... used their positions of trust within their respective organizations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the commercial rights to their soccer tournaments," U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said at a news conference in New York. "They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament."

Blatter is trying to carry on with business as usual but two current FIFA vice presidents were among those arrested and indicted, Jeffrey Webb (Cayman Islands), head of the CONCACAF regional organization and Eugenio Figueredo (Uruguay).

Others on the list are Julio Rocha (Nicaragua), Rafael Esquivel (Venezuela), Eduardo Li (Costa Rica), Jose Maria Marin (Brazil), and Costas Takkas (Britain).

Blatter issued a statement later in the day saying, "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."

Speaking of ethics, after the USA press conference, FIFA expelled 11 individuals from football -related activities however the gesture was lost on the fact that seven of them were already in custody with the Swiss authorities.

His political challenger, Prince Ali, used the opportunity to push his cause, "We cannot continue with the crisis in FIFA, a crisis that has been ongoing and is not just relevant to the events of today. FIFA needs leadership that governs, guides and protects our national associations. Leadership that accepts responsibility for its actions and does not pass blame. Leadership that restores confidence in the hundreds of millions of football fans around the world."

However FIFA spokesperson, Walter de Gregorio, held a press conference this morning and confirmed that the FIFA election would proceed as planned and that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would remain in Russia and Qatar despite the investigation of vote buying.

FIFA executive committee member and Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, told The Associated Press "we've got nothing to hide. We're prepared to show everything, we've always acted within the law."

Today's events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole. 

The European continental football organization, UEFA, officially issued FIFA a red card and cut to the chase with their statement:

"UEFA is deeply shocked and saddened by them. 

These events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA's culture.

There is a need for the whole of FIFA to be "rebooted" and for a real reform to be carried out. 

The upcoming FIFA Congress risks to turn into a farce and therefore the European associations will have to consider carefully if they should even attend this Congress and caution a system, which, if it is not stopped, will ultimately kill football. 

The UEFA member associations are meeting tomorrow ahead of the FIFA Congress. At that point, the European associations will decide on what further steps need to be taken to protect the game of football. 

In the meantime, the members of the UEFA Executive Committee are convinced that there is a strong need for a change to the leadership of this FIFA and strongly believe that the FIFA Congress should be postponed, with new FIFA presidential elections to be organised within the next six months."


Keywords · Olympics · FIFA · Sepp Blatter


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