The U.S. Department of Justice and the Swiss police arrested fourteen persons in Zurich on Wednesday, who they say have been involved in various schemes of corruption, spanning over more than two decades at the world’s top governing body for soccer.
Among those involved are nine current and former FIFA officials and five others, who are sports marketing executives which the U.S. Justice Department has accused of various corruption charges and moves to enrich themselves through FIFA.
Swiss authorities have also begun serious investigations into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the arrests of officials with the soccer governing body is “an illegal attempt by the United States to impose its laws on foreign states.”
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“Without going into details about the charges that have been brought up, we point to the fact that this is another case of the illegal extraterritorial application of U.S. laws,” the ministry said on its website.
FIFA, a multi-billion dollar, self-funded, nonprofit organization, appeared blindsided by the disclosure of the probes and the arrests even as its president claims he is not aware of such corrupt activities. Although, he has not been mentioned in the reports from the investigations, it is difficult to believe he could possibly be unaware, owing to the fact that those involved are high up the ladder of leadership.
While some of the defendants are still active officials, others were at one point, high-ranking FIFA officials by the operation of the FIFA statutes, as well as officials of one or more other bodies:
Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.
Current FIFA executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.
Julio Rocha Lopez
Current FIFA development officer. Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president.
Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.
Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member. Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.
Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president.
José Maria Marin
Current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments. Former CBF president.
Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.
Current attaché to the CONCACAF president. Former CIFA general secretary.
Four of the defendants were sports marketing executives:
- Alejandro Burzaco – Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A, a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
- Aaron Davidson – President of Traffic Sports USA Inc. (Traffic USA).
- José Margulies – Controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd.
- Hugo and Mariano Jinkis – Controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
On the 30th of May 2015, the world’s football governing body will be electing a new president to pilot its affairs for the next four years. Its current president, Mr. Joseph Sepp Blatter, running for his fifth term in office – an office he has occupied since 1998, is being challenged by Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, a Jordan prince, who has the backing of former candidates, Michael Van Praag and Luís Figo, and also of UEFA, who has called for Mr. Blatter to step down.
This will be the first time Mr. Sepp Blatter will have “real” opposition in the race for the top seat of FIFA since 1998.