With billions of dollars at stake, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa jockeyed in 2004 for the privilege of hosting soccer’s most prestigious tournament, the World Cup. The outcome hinged on a decision by the executive committee of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and a single vote could tip the decision.It's been common knowledge that FIFA is so deeply corrupt that it makes the International Olympic Committee look like Bernie Sanders, so I am not at all surprised that allegations of corruption have finally been made public, though I am a bit surprised that it was the US that led the investigation.
And at least one vote, prosecutors said Wednesday, was for sale.
Jack Warner, a committee member from Trinidad and Tobago, shopped his ballot to the highest bidder, federal prosecutors said. In early 2004, he flew to Morocco, where a member of that country’s bid committee offered him $1 million. But South Africa had a sweeter deal, offering $10 million to a group that Mr. Warner controlled, prosecutors said. He voted for South Africa. South Africa got the 2010 World Cup. And Mr. Warner got his $10 million payout, much of which prosecutors said he diverted for his personal use.
For decades, that was how business was done in international soccer, American officials said Wednesday as they announced a sweeping indictment against 14 soccer officials and marketing executives who they said had corrupted the sport through two decades of shadowy dealing and $150 million in bribes. Authorities described international soccer in terms normally reserved for Mafia families or drug cartels, and brought charges under racketeering laws usually applied to such criminal organizations.
Hours after Swiss authorities arrived unannounced at a Zurich hotel and arrested top FIFA officials early Wednesday morning, the Justice Department and prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York forcefully declared that their investigation had only just begun and pledged to rid the international soccer organization of systemic corruption.
“These individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held, and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who supervised the investigation from its earliest stages, when she was the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”
As it stands now, the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter is not among those arrested, but given that these indictments include the FIFA statutes, which cast a very broad net (the phrase "corrupt pattern" comes to mind), if only a few of these people roll, I imagine that he could be a defendant as well.
It appears that these arrests are the proverbial good news for the Jews, as it looks like this will side-track for a while efforts to expel Israel from FIFA:
Israelis were expecting some big news to come out of the annual FIFA Congress this week. But they probably weren’t expecting this.Needless to say, some people are already blaming the "international Zionist conspiracy" for the arrests.
In a bombshell operation, a Swiss law enforcement team showed up at the Zurich hotel hosting the annual gathering of the international soccer organization — and arrested nine senior officials.
The arrests come after decades of corruption allegations aimed at FIFA. (If you’re unfamiliar, comedian John Oliver’s got you covered.) The arrested officials face charges of taking money in exchange for World Cup hosting bids, as well taking bribes in exchange for media and marketing rights for major international tournaments.
The allegations are damning, but frankly, they couldn’t have come at a better time for Israel. Until Wednesday, much of the coverage of the FIFA Congress surrounded whether delegates would vote to suspend Israel from world soccer.
The Palestinian Football Association is introducing the motion to suspend Israel, accusing it of unjustly restricting Palestinian soccer players’ freedom of movement and claiming that Israel’s West Bank settlement teams violate FIFA rules. Israeli officials have called the effort blatantly political and said that the Palestinians’ complaints all concern Israel’s security forces — not Israel’s soccer teams.
Personally, I'm hoping that we eventually see similar arrests directed at the NFL, and its head Roger Goodell.