Wednesday, in Zurich, Switzerland, Swiss police raided the Baur au Lac hotel at dawn and arrested seven FIFA officials staying there ahead of Friday’s presidential election. The arrests were triggered by a 47-count U.S. Department of Justice indictment charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering in conspiracies that stretch over a 24-year period.
FBI Director, James Corney said: “As charged in the indictment, the defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world.”
The FBI raided our region’s football headquarters, the CONCACAF offices in Miami, Forida. U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, who oversaw the FIFA investigation from her previous position as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said: “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted. It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who…have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”
The 14 defendants are: Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel, Jose Maria Marin, Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Jeffrey Webb, all FIFA officials; sports marketing executives Alejandro Burzaco (Torneos y Competencias, S.A.), Aaron Davidson (Traffic Sports USA, Inc.), Jugo and Mariano Jinkis (Full Play Group, S.A.); and broadcaster Jose Margulies.
Despite the fact that FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, has been the key figure of the organization over that entire period in question, his name was not among those charged. Among the more prominent members named was Cayman Island Football Association President Jeffrey Webb, who is also a FIFA Vice President and the CONCACAF president.
[Full disclosure: I traveled to attend a CONCACAF Summit in the Cayman Islands in October of 2013, at CONCACAF’s invitation. About a month prior to the event I had e-mailed his offices explaining that I wanted to conduct a profile of Mr. Webb. The office vetted me over the phone and then granted me an on-site interview at the conference. Yet, without explanation or excuse, while in the Cayman Islands, my interview was cancelled. I made several attempts while there, and again once back in the U.S., to reach his staff or him. No one returned my calls or e-mails.]
Many media outlets, including ABC News, the New York Times, BBC, CNN and the Wall Street Journal provided copious coverage of the scandal.
FIFA’s position and approach were made clear in their response, published on their website, which was titled: “FIFA is fully cooperating as injured party in the actions by Swiss authorities.”