FIFA has long been rumored to be rife with corruption. Late last year, former FIFA employee turned whistleblower Phaedra Almajid blew the whistle on bribery in the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process. And just this week, after a four-year FBI investigation, the DOJ indicted nine FIFA officials and five marketing executives on racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves by soliciting and receiving various bribes and kickbacks. Defendants include high ranking officials in FIFA and other soccer governing bodies operating under the FIFA umbrella, along with US and South American sports marketing executives.
Most of the allegations relate to over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks paid by sports marketing executives to FIFA officials in connection with media and marketing rights for soccer games. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who supervised the investigation from its earliest stages, said “these individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held, and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide.”
While the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – the subjects of Ms. Almajid’s allegations — were not part of the DOJ’s charges this week, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has taken it on, stating it opened a criminal investigation into how those hosts were selected. It remains to be seen whether the DOJ will also pursue allegations relating to 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding. One thing is clear: its work is not done.
The DOJ has firmly stated it is committed to continuing its work in stamping out corruption in soccer, which it says will include additional indictments. Kelly T. Currie, acting United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York promised this week’s indictment is “the beginning of our effort, not the end.” He added, “Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough…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.” Attorney General Lynch echoed his sentiments, stating the indictment “makes clear that this [DOJ] intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice.”
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