World Soccer Body FIFA Raided, Execs Arrested In Massive Corruption Probe

World Soccer Body FIFA Raided, Execs Arrested In Massive Corruption Probe

FIFA, the powerful yet deeply troubled governing body for soccer, was indicted in two probes led by U.S. and Swiss authorities.

Acting on a U.S. led indictment by the Justice Department, Swiss police arrested several top FIFA officials, including two vice presidents, in an overnight raid in Zurich on charges of corruption Wednesday.

The U.S. investigation focuses on crimes that span 24 years. U.S. prosecutors issued warrants for 14 people, on charges ranging from money laundering to fraud and, most seriously, racketeering. The charges state FIFA officials took bribes totaling more than $150 million and in return gave out "lucrative media and marketing rights" to soccer tournaments as kickbacks.

Swiss authorities, hot on the heels of their U.S. counterparts, said they have opened a separate criminal investigation into FIFA's operations, this one regarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, which went to Russia and Qatar respectively. Ten people are being questioned in the Swiss probe.

The criminal proceedings come just before the members of soccer's rotten governing body gathered for an election Friday that could see its leader, Sepp Blatter, receive a fifth term in office.

Blatter isn't among those charged but was investigated, and officials say that part of the probe continues.

FIFA said in a statement that both the election and the games in Russia and Qatar will go on as planned.

"The timing may not obviously be the best, but FIFA welcomes the process," FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio told reporters. He acknowledged the investigations but didn't directly comment on them.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in her first career defining prosecution, said that the indictment "alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States.

It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks."

One of the highest ranking official charged within the U.S. is Jeffrey Webb, FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF, the FIFA-affiliated governing body for soccer in the North America and the Caribbean regions.

Others charged are: Eugenio Figueredo, FIFA vice president and executive committee member; Jack Warner, former FIFA vice president and executive committee member; and Nicolás Leoz, former FIFA executive committee member.

A number of exeuctives at sports-marketing companies have also been charged.

The Swiss Federal Office of Justice alleges that the suspects accepted bribes and kickbacks totaling more than $150 million, dating from the early 1990s until now.

In return for the bribes, they dished out lucrative media, marketing and sponsorship rights to soccer matches in Latin America, the Swiss Office of Justice said in a statement.

The charges are the conclusion of a three-year FBI investigation. Five others in the case have already pleaded guilty: four former FIFA officials and a sports marketing executive. It is likely those individuals are now cooperating with the FBI in return for a reduced sentence.

The United States brought charges against the suspects because the schemes were allegedly hatched on American soil.

"According to U.S. request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the U.S., and payments were carried out via U.S. banks," the Swiss Office of Justice said.

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