Six senior officials from football’s world governing body have been arrested on corruption charges in an early-morning raid in Zurich. What’s the story so far?
What has happened?
Some of the top officials at Fifa – the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the governing body of world football – have been arrested at a hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, on suspicion of receiving bribes totalling $100m (£65m). They were arrested before Fifa’s annual general meeting on Friday in an early-morning raid by Swiss police, acting on a request from the US authorities. The officials are all facing extradition to the US.
In a separate move, officers raided Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich, seized electronic data and opened criminal proceedings “on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups”.
Who was arrested?
Jeffrey Webb, president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) and a major figure in Fifa politics, was among those detained. His predecessor, Jack Warner, was also arrested, according to the New York Times. The others held by Swiss police are: Eugenio Figueredo, a Uruguayan Association football executive and former footballer; Eduardo Li, president of the Costa Rican football federation; Julio Rocha, a Fifa development officer; Rafael Esquivel, president of the Venezuelan Football Federation; José Maria Marin, ex-president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, and Nicolás Leoz, the former South American football president. Another suspect was named as Costas Takkas.
Up to 15 officials are understood to be under investigation worldwide, so the arrests on Wednesday morning may be just the start.
Was Fifa president Sepp Blatter arrested?
No. Fifa are due to hold a press conference at 10am GMT when they will address the arrests, but so far football’s world governing body has declined to comment. Blatter’s Twitter account, which recently celebrated Fifa’s 111th birthday, has remained silent on the arrests.
What do the charges involve?
The charges include money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said the bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to delegates of Fifa and other functionaries of Fifa sub-organisations totalling more than $100m. In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America.
Could Russia and Qatar be stripped of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups?
No country has ever been stripped of a World Cup, so this is without precedent. Such a move would be mired in legal complexities, with both Qatar and Russia likely to aggressively challenge any decision to strip them of the tournament on which both countries have already spent vast sums.
However, it is equally likely that members of the rival bids – including Australia and the US for the 2022 World Cup, and Portugal and Spain for 2018 – will be looking closely at the details of Wednesday’s extraordinary developments with a view to applying for the bidding process to be reopened.
Both World Cups have been mired in controversy since they were awarded on 2 December 2010. Yet Sepp Blatter has been adamant that nothing would derail either tournament, declaring as recently as last week after meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin that “nothing will get in the way of Russia hosting the best ever World Cup”. As he spoke, the FBI and Swiss police were preparing to make arrests that would throw the future of both World Cups into grave doubt.
Why were the arrests made now?
Swiss police appear to have timed the arrests to occur before Fifa’s annual general meeting on Friday, when they knew that a significant number of their suspects would be in the same city. Not just the same city, but the same hotel. The raid on the Baur au Lac, a luxury hotel with views overlooking the Alps, has long been favouredby Fifa officials visiting Zurich.
Why are US authorities investigating Fifa?
The US attorney general is due to hold a press conference on Wednesday when more details will become clear. However, the FBI has been investigating the process that led to the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar respectively. News of the FBI investigation emerged in March 2013 with further details reported in November last year. It was reported that Chuck Blazer, a former Fifa executive committee member, was cooperating with the inquiry after he was approached over huge unpaid tax bills related to commissions he had received during his time as Concacaf general secretary.
Who is Chuck Blazer?
Chuck Blazer is a former Fifa executive committee member. Days before he was due to stand down in May 2013, he was suspended from football for 90 days by Fifa amid allegations that he fraudulently received more than $20m from Concacaf.
The 70-year-old football chief has also held senior posts in America and is credited with turning the sport into a booming success in the US. And while US soccer’s fortunes flourished, so did Blazer’s. He earned the nickname Mr Ten Percent after reportedly negotiating an extraordinary contract with Concacaf that entitled him to 10% of just about every penny the body brought in. His colourful jet-set lifestyle matched his exuberance, and when he wasn’t living in his $18,000-a-month Manhattan apartment, he was probably relaxing at his luxury condo in the Bahamas.
Last November it emerged that Blazer was cooperating with a US investigation into Fifa. Investigators were said to have approached Blazer in 2011 after allegedly discovering huge unpaid tax bills related to commissions he had received during his time as Concacaf general secretary. The New York Daily News, which broke the story in November 2014, reported that Blazer had secretly recorded Fifa executives for US investigators using a keychain fitted with a covert recording device.
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