Several top FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday morning by Swiss authorities at the request of the United States Justice Department, which has brought charges against more than 10 of the leaders of soccer’s global governing body, The New York Times reports.
“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” said a law enforcement official told the Times. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”
The arrests were made at an upscale hotel where FIFA is hosting its annual meeting.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Charges Include Wire Fraud, Racketeering & Money Laundering
The charges against the top FIFA officials include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, according to the Times.
The names of all the officials being charged have not yet been released. According to the Times, FIFA President Sepp Blatter is not among those who will be charged. Not all of the officials are in Switzerland for the meeting, the Times reports.
According to the Times list, all of the FIFA officials are from North America, the Caribbean and South America.
Jeffrey Webb, of the Cayman Islands, is the president of CONCACAF and a FIFA vice president; Eugenio Figueredo, of Uruguay, is also a FIFA vice president and was recently the head of South America’s soccer association; and Jack Warner, of Trinidad and Tobago, is the former CONCACAF president and a former member of FIFA’s executive committee.
Eduardo Li, of Costa Rica, the president of his country’s football association and CONCACAF’s representative from its Central America zone on the FIFA Executive Committee, was also arrested, according to the Times. He was led out of the hotel through a side door and was allowed to take his luggage, the newspaper reports.
Julio Rocha, is a FIFA development officer from Nicaurgua. Costas Takkas is from the Cayman Islands, Rafael Esquivel is from Venezuela and Nicolas Leoz is from Paraguay.
Brazilian Jose Maria Marin was also arrested, according to the Times. He is a politician and former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation who led the 2014 World Cup committee.
Warner has previously been accused of widespread wrongdoing, while Webb had been seen as a force of change, cleaning up the corrupted CONCACAF organization. Warner resigned in 2011 just before a investigation found that he had committed fraud and personally made millions in profit off his job. Because he resigned, Warner’s cases before FIFA’s ethics committee were closed and he was not found guilty of any wrongdoing.
The investigation was aided by cooperating witness Charles Blazer, a former CONCACAF executive from the United States, the New York Daily News reports. Blazer worked alongside Warner and has also faced corruption allegations.
2. The Arrests Were Made After Swiss Law Enforcement Showed Up Unannounced at the Hotel
According to the Times report, FIFA officials were not aware of the operation by Swiss police, who showed up unannounced at the five-star hotel where the organization is hosting its annual meeting. The Baur au Lac hotel has views of the Alps and Lake Zurich, according to the Times.
The Times reports that the officers got keys to rooms from the hotel’s registration desk, then went upstairs to the rooms to make the arrests.
3. Details of the Charges Haven’t Been Announced
According to the Wall Street Journal, the indictments could be unsealed in federal court Wednesday morning in New York.
The United States Justice Department has the authority to bring charges against foreigners and foreign-based organizations based on small connections to the U.S., like using an American-based bank or Internet Service Provider, according to the Times.
The case was brought in the Eastern District of New York, where it was overseen by now-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The investigation dates back to 2011, according to the Daily News.
4. The Charges Come As FIFA President Sepp Blatter Seeks Re-Election
Controversial FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter is expected to be re-elected to a fifth term leading the multi-billion dollar organization, but the arrests could put that in power, with many calls already being made for Blatter to step aside.
Blatter is not expected to be charged, according to the Times report.
He has previously denied reports that he has been avoiding travel to the United States because of the FBI investigation into FIFA officials, The Guardian reported earlier this month.
5. FIFA Has Faced Criticism Worldwide Over Its Lack of Transparency & Allegedly Corrupt Practices
FIFA has faced criticism for its lack of transparency and alleged corruption, according to the Times report.
Its awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been a subject of controversy over the conditions of slave workers building stadiums for the World Cup, including the deaths of many of the workers.
The awarding of the tournament to Qatar was investigated by former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia after accusations of bribery were made, but the report was never made public, according to the Times. Instead, a summary of the report was released by FIFA’s Ethics Committee, and Garcia criticized it as incorrect and incomplete. FIFA claimed the report found there were ethics violations, but they did not affect the integrity of the vote.