14 arrested, including 9 FIFA officials, on corruption charges

Zurich, Switzerland — Federal prosecutors have indicted 14 people, including 9 FIFA officials, with wire fraud, racketing and money laundering that date back to the early 1990s.

 A Justice Department statement accused the defendants of “conspiring to solicit and receive well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.”

A 47-page indictment was unsealed hours after seven international soccer officials were arrested by Swiss authorities. The arrest came just ahead of the annual International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) conference in Zurich. The officials were arrested in a 5-star hotel.

According to The New York Times, among those arrested were current FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo, both members of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, as well as Costa Rica soccer federation president Eduardo Li.

Webb is also the president of CONCACAF, one of FIFA’s six regional confederations. CONCACAF oversees all aspects of international soccer in North America, the Caribbean, and Central America.

FIFA officials arrested in ZurichOthers arrested include Julio Rocha, a FIFA development officer and former head of the Nicaraguan soccer federation; Costas Takkas, Webb’s attache; Rafael Esquivel, the president of Venezuela’s soccer federation; and José Maria Marin, member of the organizing committee for Olympic soccer tournaments and former president of Brazil’s soccer federation.

While Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) confirmed the arrests, they did not specify that all were FIFA members. Others named in the indictment include four non-FIFA sports marketing executives and a man described as an “intermediary [who arranged] illicit payments between sports marketing executives and soccer officials.”

Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, was not named in the indictment. The 79-year-old was expected to be elected to a fifth presidential term Friday. Blatter made no comment on the arrests, though FIFA said the election would go ahead as planned.

Blatter’s only opponent in Friday’s presidential election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, said it was “a sad day for football.”

“Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie in a statement. “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start – a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States. Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”

The Justice Department also said Wednesday that authorities were executing a search warrant at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami.

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