FIFA Under Fire: United States and Switzerland Each Alleging Corruption
On Wednesday, May 27, more than a dozen Swiss law enforcement officials arrived at the Baur au Lac, a luxury hotel in Zurich, where they proceeded to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges. The U.S. Justice Department announced that it had charged nine current and former FIFA officials and five others with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with their participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through FIFA.
Hours after the arrests were made, Swiss officials announced that they had opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering through Swiss bank accounts in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. According to FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio, these plans for future World Cups in Russia and Qatar are going to continue as expected, as FIFA has ruled out a revote.
The arrests come just 48 hours before the body was expected to re-elect its president, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, to a fifth term, as the luxury hotel has long been a favorite of FIFA officials visiting Zurich and served as a good target for the Swiss law enforcement officials. Blatter was not among those arrested, but he was among those investigated, and officials say that part of the probe is currently ongoing. The election is still expected to occur as scheduled on Friday, May 29.