So what the hell just happened in Zurich?
Early this morning, Swiss law enforcement officials appeared to have taken advantage of FIFA convening for its presidential elections to arrest seven FIFA officials in Zurich for extradition to the United States based on a 47 count Federal indictment from the US Department of Justice.
Was Sepp Bla—
No, FIFA president Sepp Blatter wasn’t among them.
Additionally, the Swiss attorney general’s office took advantage of the situation to conduct an investigation of their own, more on that below…
What are these officials charged with?
According to the hair-raising DOJ press release, these officials, including two others not present at the FIFA congress and five others who had been waived indictment and pled guilty, are charged with “...racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.”
Yep. I highly recommend reading the entire press release as it is exhaustive. Most of these charges related to activities by the North and South American soccer federations, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, involving kickback schemes surrounding television rights deals. This is the kind of stuff people in both federations have long known about but couldn’t nail down.
So how did this federal investigation come about?
There were rumours circulating in early 2013 that former FIFA vice president Jack Warner’s son, Daryan Warner, was under house arrest in Miami and cooperating with the FBI in a federal investigation into FIFA corruption, with several deals involving US banks and conducted on US soil. Then in November of last year, the New York Daily News ran a story on former CONCACAF general secretary, FIFA executive committee member and beard enthusiast Chuck Blazer also acting as an FBI informant. Finally, there were rumors only a few weeks ago that Sepp himself may come under US indictment. So this has been in the works for a while.
Does all this have to do with the World Cup in Qatar or something?
Well, incredibly, while the US investigation is focused on activities involving the North and South American federations, the Swiss attorney general’s office conducted a FIFA raid of their own this morning Heyo! Their investigation does involve the 2018/2022 bids. So there could be consequences there, too, though we won’t know until the dust settles.
Will there eventually be more charges?
Well acting US attorney Kelly T. Currie stresses in the DOJ press release that “this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation,” so hang on to your butts! Then there is the Swiss investigation into the 2018/2022 bid “irregularities,” so there may be something to come out of that as well.
Will FIFA still go ahead with the presidential election? Will there be consequences for the World Cups in Russia and Qatar? Will Sepp Blatter go down somehow?
Stay tuned…in the meantime, lots of good resources on this story in the New York Times, the Guardian and CNN. Plus, Longform has a nice collection of background reading to bring you up to snuff, because FIFA corruption is, unlike football, incredibly complex.