Let me get this straight. FIFA, the world governing body, awarded the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar, and now we hear that bribery may have occurred? Get. Out. Swiss officials arrested a number of high-ranking FIFA officials as both Switzerland and the US unveiled indictments for corruption and money laundering. FIFA’s top man won’t be among the names on the police blotter, though:
Swiss federal prosecutors opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, throwing FIFA deeper into crisis only hours after six soccer officials were arrested and 14 indicted Wednesday in a separate U.S. corruption probe.
FIFA, meanwhile, said Friday’s presidential election would go ahead as planned with Sepp Blatter going for a fifth term. Blatter was not named in either investigation….
The Swiss prosecutors’ office said in a statement they seized “electronic data and documents” at FIFA’s headquarters on Wednesday as part of their probe. And Swiss police said they will question 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.
The Swiss investigation against “persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering” again throws into the doubt the integrity of the voting.
The New York Times has more, including the scope of the bribery:
The charges, backed by an F.B.I. investigation, allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals.
The indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment is also expected to name sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments. …
Even before the vote took place, two committee members — Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti — were suspended after an investigation by The Sunday Times caught both men on tape asking for payments in exchange for their support. It was later revealed by England’s bid chief that four ExCo members had solicited bribes from him for their votes; one asked for $2.5 million, while another, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, requested a knighthood.
As new accounts of bribery continued to emerge — a whistleblower who worked for the Qatar bid team claimed that several African officials were paid $1.5 million each to support Qatar — FIFA in 2012 started an investigation of the bid process. It was led by a former United States attorney, Michael J. Garcia, who spent nearly two years compiling a report. That report, however, has never been made public; instead, the top judge on the ethics committee, the German Joachim Eckert, released a summary of the report. In it, he declared that while violations of the code of ethics had occurred, they had not affected the integrity of the vote.
Well, thank goodness we never see corruption on this scale in American sports. Over here, we just have professional leagues and team owners shake down cities for billions in public funds to build private playgrounds for millionaires and billionaires rather than fixing infrastructure and fully funding pension funds, because … ‘Murica, or something. And don’t even get me started on boxing.
Honestly, though, how difficult was this to figure out? The World Cup is usually played in summer, which in Qatar would be around 50 degrees Celsius, or 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and in high humidity to boot. Who in their right mind would send the league’s top stars to play in that, or their fans to watch it, without a ton of cash to convince them?
The Department of Justice spent considerable time and effort tracking down the quid pro quo involved in decades of FIFA machinations. Maybe they’ll have some time to look at some quid pro quo closer to home now.