The U.S. Department of Justice came down like a ton of bricks on several FIFA officials Tuesday night in Zurich, Switzerland (at the palatial Baur au Lac Hotel, above), where the FIFA elections (a dog-and-pony show to re-elect President Sepp Blatter) are to be held.
It’s an earth-shaking event in the soccer world, even though no one quite knows what the further-reaching implications will be so early into this story. We do know that Blatter was not arrested, but that at least seven other FIFA officials were, and the DOJ’s indictment lists 14 total.
The New York Times reports the indictments are for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption, and the breakdown of those facing charges goes like this:
- Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the branch of FIFA that oversees North and Central America
- Nicolas Leoz, former president of CONMEBOL, the branch of FIFA that oversees South America
- Six current and former chief executives for national soccer federations (Costa Rica, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua and Cayman Islands)
- Four marketing executives in North and South America (one of whom was also chairman of the board of the North American Soccer Federation)
- One alleged intermediary, or bagman
Zurich police, who performed the arrests and extraditions to the U.S., released this statement regarding the charges:
The bribery suspects – representatives of sports-media and sports-promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries – delegates of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations –totaling more than USD 100 million. In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America. According to the US request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the U.S., and payments were carried out via U.S. banks.