Six Fifa officials arrested on corruption charges

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FIFA-Logo1In a raid, Swiss police arrested six leading football officials and detained them pending extradition to the United States on federal corruption charges related to Fifa.

The arrests began around 6am local time, with police covering the detained with bed sheets as they led them to waiting cars.

An international law enforcement collaboration resulted in morning raids at the Hotel Bauer au Lac in Zurich where officials were staying ahead of the 65th Fifa Congress.

Football governing body president Sepp Blatter is not believed to have been arrested, but Swiss police revealed six figures are set to be questioned over fraud allegations.

“By order of the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), six soccer officials were arrested in Zurich on 27 May and detained pending extradition,” a Zurich police statement said.

“The bribery suspects — sports media and promotion representatives — are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries (delegates of Fifa and its sub-organisations) totalling more than 100 million US dollars,” Zurich police said.

The arrests were a startling blow to FIFA, a multibillion-dollar organization that governs the world’s most popular sport but has been plagued by accusations of bribery for decades.

The arrest warrants were issued further to a request by the US authorities. The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is probing these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between early 1990s and the present day.”

Zurich police confirmed the extradition process will begin soon, subject to appeal, while a senior official within the US law enforcement ranks expressed shock at the two decades of alleged money-laundering and fraud.

The timing could not be more striking, with Blatter up for re-election as Fifa president on 29 May. Being head of FIFA for 17 years has elevated Blatter to 70th place in the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people, the only sports leader in the group jostling behind the likes of Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.The former amateur footballer, an old fashioned striker, joined FIFA in 1975 from a post marketing Swiss watches.

Meanwhile, four individual defendants and two corporate defendants have pleaded guilty. “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” says US attorney general Loretta Lynch.

Fifa spokesperson Walter De Gregorio: “The president (Sepp Blatter) is not involved, how can you say he has to step down? He is the president, if he is re-elected then he is the president for the next four years.”

Fifa confirms the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will go ahead as planned in Russia and Qatar.

 

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