Saturday 22 September 2018

FIFA arrests are 'like something from mafia movie,' says Delaney


THE chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland has said this morning's arrests of seven FIFA soccer officials by Swiss police is akin to "something out of a mafia movie".

The FAI's John Delaney said the developments were pretty shocking but that nothing would surprise him with FIFA.

News broke this morning of the dramatic arrests by police in Zurich pending extradition at the request of the FBI.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not among those arrested.

The case involves allegations of bribes "totalling more than $100m" linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.


The FIFA officials are in Switzerland for the FIFA congress and presidential election, where Blatter is widely expected to win a fifth term at the helm of the governing body of world soccer.

"When you wake up this morning and hear those events it is shocking and very saddening," Mr Delaney.

"There's always speculation, there's always accusations of bribery and corruption with awards of World Cups. They are always covert and then there's independent reports which we don't get to see. There's always controversy around FIFA and its decisions and governance."

Mr Delaney said the FAI would not be voting for Blatter because he felt it was time for him to step down and let someone else take control.

Fifa spokesman Walter de Gregorio said the organisation initiated and "welcomes" the investigation.

He confirmed Mr Blatter is not involved in the proceedings and the election for president will go ahead as planned on Friday.

"Timing is obviously not the best. Certainly this is a difficult moment for us, FIFA is suffering once again," he said.

Mr de Gregorio said the investigation will not affect the hosting of the next competitions, adding: "The World Cups 2018 and 2022 will be played in Russia and Qatar."

Blatter's only opponent in Friday's presidential election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, said it was "a sad day for football", but declined to comment further.

The arrests were made at the lakeside Baur au Lac Hotel in downtown Zurich, long favoured as a place for senior FIFA officials to stay.


Among the people arrested in Zurich were vice-president Jeffrey Webb and Costa Rica soccer federation president Eduardo Li.

Li was later seen leaving the hotel in a car with law enforcement officials.

The US Department of Justice confirmed that in all nine FIFA officials, including Webb and former vice-president Jack Warner from Trinidad, and five others, have been charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies in connection with an alleged "24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer".

It also revealed that four others, including American former FIFA executive committee member, Chuck Blazer, had pleaded guilty.

The defendants also include US and South American sports marketing executives who the department said "are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over 150 million US dollars in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments".

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said: "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."

Meanwhile, Swiss federal prosecutors have opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, throwing FIFA deeper into crisis.

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