Actually, it’s the Swiss who are probing the 2018 World Cup award to Russia, and the US bid was for the 2022 World Cup that went to Qatar. Vladimir Putin won’t let those facts get in the way of a good anti-American rant, of course. The Russian strongman publicly questioned why the US would have any interest or jurisdiction over a legal argument that doesn’t involve its own citizens, which also turns out to be … not true:
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of meddling in FIFA’s affairs and hinted that it was part of an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country.
Putin said in televised comments Thursday that he found it “odd” that the probe was launched at the request of U.S. officials for crimes which do not involve its citizens.
Corruption charges in the U.S. were announced Wednesday against 14 people, with at least two of them holding American citizenship. Seven of the 14 were arrested Wednesday morning in Zurich ahead of a FIFA meeting and Friday’s presidential election in which Sepp Blatter is expected to win a fifth term.
The probe may end up encompassing more than just a couple of American citizens on FIFA’s board. According to the Washington Post, a major American sports retailer participated in a scheme to launder the money used for bribes with a Brazilian partner. Drew Harwell connects the dots to Nike:
The indictment also alleges bribes were paid and pocketed in connection with the sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by “a major U.S. sportswear company.” Although investigators will not name the company, the indictment says the sportswear firm signed a 10-year, $160 million sponsorship deal with the Brazilian team in 1996, closely matching Nike’s clothes, shoes and equipment deal with the team that year.
The indictment alleges a sportswear-company official agreed three days later to allow Traffic Brazil, a sports marketing company, to charge additional “marketing fees.” Traffic then invoiced the company for tens of millions of dollars more in payments over the next three years that investigators say were bribes.
Nike’s current contract, which expires in 2018, includes $34 million a year in payments to the team, the fourth-largest uniform deal in international soccer, and the Oregon-based mega-firm’s Swoosh logo sits on every Brazilian player’s outfit.
Through its spokesman, Nike offered a statement denouncing bribery and manipulation and pledging its cooperation with authorities. It stopped short of an outright denial. The one American charged so far works for Traffic as president of its US-based affiliate, but Aaron Davidson’s connection to the sport goes deeper:
Davidson is chairman of the board of the North American Soccer League (NASL), and Traffic Sports USA owns stakes in several of its regional soccer franchises, including the Atlanta Silverbacks and the Carolina RailHawks, and a former stake in the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
Davidson won’t be alone in America for long in this scandal. As prosecutors apply pressure to those ensnared, more names will emerge, either directly involved or tangentially. One surprising connection uncovered by The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich went all the way to … Bill Clinton? FIFA was a significant donor to the Clinton Foundation and partnered on sponsorship for various events, but it goes farther than that. Clinton fronted the effort to land the 2022 World Cup for the US, only to be beaten by the strange decision to award it to Qatar. Qatar offered the Clintons a mighty nice consolation prize:
When the U.S. lost the 2022 bid to Qatar, Clinton was rumored to be so upset he shattered a mirror.
But apparently Qatar tried to make it up to him.
The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, partnering with the State of Qatar, “committed to utilizing its research and development for sustainable infrastructure at the 2022 FIFA World Cup to improve food security in Qatar, the Middle East, and other arid and water-stressed regions throughout the world,” according to the Clinton Foundation website.
The cost of the two-year project is not listed on the Clinton Foundation website, but the Qatar 2022 committee gave the foundation between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014 and the State of Qatar gave between $1 million and $5 million in previous, unspecified years.
It appears that the Qataris didn’t mind paying everybody off to get the World Cup. Clinton had to have seen what was going on in the bid process, which raises the question of whether the Clintons took the cash to keep quiet about the corruption. It’s tangential to the actual corruption alleged at FIFA in terms of the legal case, but it’s certainly an interesting question from the political point of view — and it makes the Clinton Foundation look even sleazier than ever.