US prosecutors have accused nine senior Fifa officials of running a $150 million fraud through a “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption network to “acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks”.
US attorney general Loretta Lynch explained that those arrested, who include former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner and five sports marketing executives, had made money for themselves for over 20 years. Fifa president Sepp Blatter is also being questioned by Swiss authorities, but is not a suspect.
“They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest, and protect the integrity of the game. Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves”, Lynch said.
“These individuals and 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.
“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”
Charges include racketeering, money laundering, bribery and corruption over TV rights and votes for the hosting countries of the World Cup and other tournaments. Lynch added that the next World Cups in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 should be reconsidered, if not stopped from going ahead.
Some large companies acting as sponsors, including Visa and Coca Cola have warned they might pulled out unless changes are made to the organisation.
Visa said in a statement it expects Fifa “to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organisation. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere”.
Photo: Wojtek Szkutnik via flickr
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