You would think they were doing home raids for drugs but authorities have arrested high-ranking FIFA officials, over allegations of corruption involving over £97 million in bribes and kickbacks spanning two decades. The news has come just days after football legend Diego Maradona called FIFA “a playground for the corrupt”.
Law enforcement officials have said that a total of 14 people, including a trio of sports marketing executives, have been charged by the Department of Justice. They are charged with allegedly promoting “a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the world’s biggest sport”, FBI Director James Comey said. Police are also believed to be acquiring a search warrant for an address in connection to the allegations in Miami, US.
Current president Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term, was not one of the seven officials arrested. The seven arrested at a five-star hotel in Zurich include:
- 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
The overall alleged crime reaches back as far as 1991, and in 2004 corruption supposedly played a role in the process of deciding who would host the 2010 World Cup, an honor that eventually fell to South Africa, according to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“In short, these individuals, through these organizations, engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” Lynch said at a press conference on May 27, New York.
IRS Chief Criminal Investigator Richard Weber called the scandal the “World Cup of Fraud” and said the U.S was issuing FIFA a “red card”, a reference to penalties given out in football games for offensive violations.