The Justice Department has indicted several top FIFA officials as part of an investigation alleging widespread corruption in soccer’s governing body over the past two decades, law-enforcement officials said.
The Justice Department has indicted several top FIFA officials as part of an investigation alleging widespread corruption in soccer’s governing body over the past two decades, law-enforcement officials said Tuesday.
The charges include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering. They involve bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals, according to three law-enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case.
Prosecutors planned to unseal an indictment against more than 10 current and former soccer executives, the law-enforcement officials said. Some of those being charged are living abroad and would face extradition to the United States.
The Justice Department worked with agencies in Switzerland, where FIFA is based, to coordinate arrests. The investigation is based in the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn.
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As FIFA leaders gathered for their annual meeting at a Zurich hotel, more than a dozen Swiss law-enforcement officials arrived unannounced, got keys at the registration desk and headed toward rooms to make arrests.
The charges are a startling blow to FIFA, a multibillion-dollar organization that governs the world’s most popular sport but has been beset by accusations of corruption and bribery for decades. The inquiry is a potential threat to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s president since June 1998, though officials said he was not charged.
Blatter, 79, is running for a fifth term as president in an election scheduled for Friday.
“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. “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.”