Dear America: let us make you care about the Department of Justice’s massive investigation into soccer’s most important governing organization by saying three things. First, it involves America bringing justice to the world. Second, it alleges that numerous soccer marketing executives solicited bribes and kickbacks in exchange for the rights to tournaments and events, totaling roughly $150 million in value. And finally, it proves that soccer is a dumb sport.
This morning, several FIFA executives were arrested around the world after the DOJ dropped a 160-page indictment charging them with corrupt practices and conspiracy, and plans to extradite them to the US to face trial. The president of FIFA and the ultimate Football Bad Guy, Sepp Blatter, was not among those arrested, but U.S. officials warned that these arrests are only the beginning.
According to the indictment, senior leadership in the the multibillion-dollar organization embarked on no less than twelve schemes to sell the rights of tournaments, elections, and sponsorships to countries and companies, in exchange for bribes and kickbacks. Russia’s bid for the 2018 World Cup and Qatar’s bid for the human rights abuse-rilled 2022 World Cup are also under investigation.
The U.S. got involved in the case because FIFA executives held many of their meetings in the U.S., and American banks and wires were used for fraudulent purposes. (A Miami-based FIFA official was also arrested this morning.) Loretta Lynch, who recently became U.S. Attorney General, previously supervised the initial FIFA investigation in New York while she served as U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn.
No one was really surprised at the news of the arrests, apart from FIFA itself, which was about to meet in Zurich to re-elect Blatter to a fifth term as FIFA president. (For a more humorous explanation of FIFA’s hyperinflated power and corrupt practices, here’s John Oliver‘s Last Week Tonight segment comparing it to organized religion.)
According to the Associated Press, six of the seven officials arrested in Zurich oppose extradition to the U.S., which, duh.
UPDATE (2:18 p.m.) In a statement, Blatter called the arrests “unfortunate,” but said he supported the investigations, stating his belief that “it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.”
Read the indictment below:
[Image via Shutterstock]
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