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Following Wednesday morning’s raid on a luxury Zurich hotel that saw several prominent FIFA officials arrested on corruption charges, the U.S. Department of Justice — which requested the initial arrests — outlined the charges against the 14 defendants.
In a statement, the Justice Department said that it has indicted nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for a “racketeering conspiracy and corruption” as part of a 24-year scheme to “enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.”
Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner — the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, a continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the U.S. — are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses. The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have “systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments,” the Department of Justice said.
A 47-count indictment was unsealed early Wednesday morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging the 14 defendants with “racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses.” The guilty pleas, between 2013 and 2015, of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants to related charges were also unsealed.
Among those to have pleaded guilty is Chuck Blazer, who was head of CONCACAF from 1990 and 2011 and a hugely influential figure in North American soccer. Blazer is reportedly the whistleblower who helped the FBI build their case against the other defendants, in one case using a keychain embedded with a microphone that he took to meetings with FIFA officials, according to the Daily News.
The others who have pleaded guilty include Jose Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a multinational sports marketing conglomerate headquartered in Brazil; and two of Hawilla’s companies, Traffic Sports International Inc. and Traffic Sports USA Inc., which is based in Florida.
Those arrested Wednesday morning in Zurich included Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and Jose Maria Marin. CONCACAF headquarters in Miami, Fla., was also being searched under a search warrant, the Justice Department said.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who announced the charges alongside FBI and IRS officials.
“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,” she added, saying that it had “profoundly harmed” a number of victims.
“From the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable,” she said in listing those affected. “Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice — and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.”
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