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Monday 5 December 2016

FIFA arrests: Racketeering, money laundering and kickbacks all being probed

The FIFA logo at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland
The FIFA logo at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland

FIFA’s reputation for corruption has reignited spectacularly two days before a presidential election expected to give Sepp Blatter four more years at the head of world soccer.

Dawn raids yesterday by Swiss federal authorities on FIFA headquarters and a luxury hotel in Zurich supported separate federal cases in the United States and Switzerland.

The US probe relates to racketeering, money laundering and kickbacks in marketing deals for soccer tournaments in the US, Brazil and across Latin America.

Two of FIFA’s eight vice-presidents and a new member of its executive committee were among officials arrested in Zurich.

The Swiss investigation is about wrongdoing in the controversial 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests which gave hosting rights to Russia and Qatar.

Some questions and answers about the case:

Q: Does this case touch FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Friday’s election?

A: Not directly. Blatter is not identified by name in either case.

Q: Could Russia or Qatar lose their right to host the World Cup?

A: No, according to FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio, speaking at a news conference yesterday.

Q: What is the US case about?

A: This was the stunning detail revealed yesterday, in a federal case that began four years ago in fallout from the last round of FIFA scandals following the World Cup votes and 2011 presidential election.

It involves a 14-defendant, 47-count indictment of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies in federal court in Brooklyn, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Those named include FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, the CONCACAF president and a Cayman Islands banker who has been seen as a potential FIFA president. He was arrested at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich.

Webb’s predecessor, Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, is also named.

The wide-ranging case rips through two of FIFA’s six continental bodies: the North and Central American, and Caribbean (CONCACAF) body and South American body CONMEBOL.

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