Wednesday morning, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged nine Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) officials and five corporate executives with 47 counts, including corruption, bribery and money laundering conspiracies. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, alongside other government officials, made the announcement while Swiss authorities arrested seven of the defendants during FIFA’s annual meeting in Zurich.
Officials arrested this morning are undergoing an investigation for allegedly accepting bribes totaling more than $150 million from U.S. and South American sports marketing executives over a 24-year span. According to the DOJ, the executives “systemically paid and agreed to pay” millions of dollars “in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”
The FIFA Officials and Executives Charged in the Scheme
Jeffrey Webb, FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president, has been charged in the FIFA scheme, as well a Jack Warner — Webb’s predecessor as CONCACAF president — and Aaron Davidson of Traffic Sports USA Inc.
Some of the indicted individuals — including Daryll Warner, former FIFA development officer and Jack Warner’s son — already pleaded guilty. Some have even forfeited over millions of dollars. Defendant Charles Blazer, former FIFA executive committee member, forked over more than $1.1 million, and Jose Hawilla of Brazil-based Traffic Group also pleaded guilty and agreed to hand over more than $151 million.
Current FIFA president Sepp Blatter is also under suspicion, although officials refused to comment on whether he is under investigation, according to the New York Times.
“The defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” said FBI Director James Comey in an issued statement. “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA. I want to commend the investigators and prosecutors around the world who have pursued this case so diligently, for so many years.”
Why Is the U.S. Involved in the FIFA Investigation?
One of the most confusing aspects of this investigation is the United States’ involvement. As CNN reports, the U.S. government is investigating because the scheme allegedly took place 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 reportedly said.
U.S. networks also pay billions of dollars for the World Cup, making the country’s television market the largest for the FIFA tournament.
According to CNN, Lynch said the next step in the FIFA corruption investigation is extradition.
FIFA’s Corruption Scheme Can Impact Future World Cups
USA Today reports the bribes were found to be connected to the 2010 host country selection. Swiss authorities have reportedly launched an investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids to Russia and Qatar, respectively, putting the host nations’ status at risk.
But according to the Los Angeles Times, it’s unlikely the investigation will affect Russia and Qatar’s bids because the countries have already invested billions of dollars into the tournament. The investigation could, however, possibly hurt the U.S.’s chances of hosting the 2026 World Cup.
“If Wednesday’s arrests and extradition are seen as unwelcome and heavy-handed American meddling in FIFA’s affairs,” states the Los Angeles Times, “the U.S. Soccer bid could lose the support of delegates from countries in the developing world.”
This article orginally appeared on Gobankingrates.com: http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/fifa-bribery-corruption-scheme-affects-world-cup/
This article by Misha Euceph first appeared on GoBankingRates.com and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.