Pledging to rid FIFA of “rampant” corruption, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that nine officials of world soccer’s governing body had been indicted on charges of receiving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.
Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of Concacaf, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States – are among those who allegedly took unlawful payments from sports marketing executives who were seeking to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.
Other alleged schemes related to the selection of South Africa as the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.
“This really is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card,” Richard Weber, head of the IRS Criminal Investigation division, told reporters, according to CNN.
News of the indictment came two days before a FIFA election that was expected to give Sepp Blatter a fifth term as president. A FIFA spokesman insisted that Mr. Blatter was not involved in any alleged wrongdoing but one U.S. law enforcement official told The New York Times that his fate would “depend on where the investigation goes from here.”
“This is the beginning of our effort, not the end,” said Kelly T. Currie, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Much of the inquiry involves Concacaf, one of the six regional confederations that comprise FIFA. According to the indictment, the soccer events tainted by bribes and kickbacks included World Cup qualifiers in the Concacaf region, the Concacaf Champions League, and the South American club championship, the Copa Libertadores.
Warner, who led Concacaf from 1990 to 2011, is accused of directing an associate to fly to Paris and accept a briefcase full of cash in $10,000 stacks from a member of South Africa’s bid committee for the 2010 World Cup.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” Lynch said. “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.