Combating corruption in the ‘beautiful game’

Authorities look to protect the integrity of soccer around the world from corruption. (© AP Images)

The U.S. Department of Justice red-carded FIFA officials and corporate executives with May 27 indictments alleging illegal activities that harmed the development of soccer around the world.

“The indictment alleges rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted corruption both abroad and in the United States,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

“They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest, and protect the integrity of the game,” Lynch said.  “Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves.”

The 47-count indictment charges 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies, along with other offenses, in connection with a 24-year scheme to gain riches at the expense of international soccer.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces corruption indictments against FIFA officials and corporate executives. (© AP Images)

“And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable,” the U.S. attorney general said.

Defendants include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who allegedly paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.

Authorities in Switzerland arrested several FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) officials in connection with the indictments. The next step in the process is extradition, in which the United States formally requests the individuals arrested in Switzerland be transferred to U.S. custody to face charges.

“The defendants arrested in Zurich have the right to a fair and impartial extradition process, and they will receive a fair trial if they are extradited to this country,” Lynch said.

The United States and Switzerland are each conducting investigations into corruption at the world’s largest football association. The sport is known in the United States and some other countries as soccer.

“Going forward, we welcome the opportunity to work with our partners around the world to bring additional co-conspirators and other corrupt individuals to justice,” Lynch said.

The United States continually works with international partners to stem corruption and to hold accountable those who exploit the public’s trust for personal gain. Learn more about the U.S. Global Anticorruption Agenda and what steps you can take to fight corruption today.