Sport Soccer

Wednesday 17 January 2018

FIFA scandal: All you need to know about the arrests that rocked world football

A board of the 65th FIFA Congress is seen on May 27, 2015 in Zurich.
A board of the 65th FIFA Congress is seen on May 27, 2015 in Zurich.

Ben Rumsby

Why is the FBI investigating Fifa? The FBI was revealed to be investigating Fifa shortly after Qatar was controversially awarded the 2022 World Cup at the expense of the United States. The probe focused mainly on allegations of wrongdoing on US soil, particularly by members of the North and Central American football confederation, Concacaf.

It emerged last year that its American former general secretary and ex-Fifa executive committee member, Chuck Blazer, had turned supergrass after being threatened with serious jail time for fraud and tax evasion. He was even said to have bugged his fellow executives during London 2012. Blazer helped to provide evidence against his president, Jack Warner, whose two sons also agreed to cooperate with the FBI, and have issued guilty pleas to charges.

What is the scope of the FBI's investigation?

The probe covers almost a quarter of a century of alleged fraud, bribery and money laundering in which well over $150million changed hands. The FBI has examined 'kickbacks' or bribes said to have been received by football officials in relation to the rights to various tournaments in Central and South America, as well as the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Fifa presidential election, which Sepp Blatter won unopposed after his rival, Mohamed Bin Hammam, withdrew over a bribery scandal.

The US Department of Justice took advantage of its extradition treaty with Switzerland to order a dawn raid on the luxury hotel in Zurich at which seven senior football officials were arrested. It also raided the Miami headquarters of Concacaf.

Why is the 2010 World Cup in South Africa part of the FBI probe?

This is one of the most explosive aspects of the indictment issued by US authorities as it accuses the South African government of paying $10m to secure the tournament - and alleges that the cash was transferred via a Fifa bank account. The money was said to have been received by Warner and Blazer. The indictment also claims Warner was offered $1m by a rival bidder, Morocco.

It previously emerged under parliamentary privilege in 2011 that a former member of the Fifa exco had claimed three of his colleagues had also been paid for their votes by Morocco.

How senior are the figures charged and what punishment could they face?

Those charged or convicted include six present, former or incoming members of the Fifa executive committee, the elite cabal headed by Blatter which governs the game. The highest ranked is Jeffrey Webb, one of eight vice-presidents to Blatter who succeeded Warner as head of Concacaf.

Eugenio Figueredo is another vice-president and former head of the South American confederation, Conmebol. Warner, who was courted by England's 2018 World Cup bid team, is a former Fifa vice-president, while Blazer was previously on the executive committee. As was Nicolas Leoz, who was infamously accused of asking for a knighthood and for the FA Cup to be named after him during England's World Cup bid. Eduardo Li was due to join the exco on Friday. All could face up to 20 years in prison.

How is the FBI investigation different to the Swiss one?

Unlike the FBI probe, the criminal proceedings launched almost simultaneously by the attorney general of Switzerland relate specifically to the bidding process for the next two World Cups. Fifa last year agreed to hand over the contents of its own internal investigation - conducted by former US attorney Michael J Garcia - to Swiss prosecutors. The attorney general decided there was a case to answer and will now question the 10 surviving foreign exco members from the 2010 vote. He agreed to coordinate his raid on Fifa's headquarters yesterday with that on the Baur au Lac hotel.

Will the Swiss investigation lead to Russia and Qatar being stripped the next two World Cups?

Blatter has always maintained that there will be no rerunning of the race for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and Fifa's director of communications, Walter de Gregorio, insisted that the developments yesterday had not changed that. However, he conceded that he could not predict whether that would change going forward. Fifa's head judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert, said last year that there was not enough evidence in the Garcia report to warrant stripping Russia and Qatar of the tournaments. Unless Swiss prosecutors say otherwise, it is hard to see the next two World Cups being held elsewhere.

Will the Fifa presidential election go ahead tomorrow?

De Gregorio confirmed both the Fifa congress and presidential election would take place as planned. It is understood there is nothing in the Fifa statutes to justify a postponement and that Blatter's sole opponent, the Fifa vice-president Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, also wants to press ahead despite UEFA last night calling for a postponement. He had been expected to lose to Blatter and it remains to be seen what impact this latest scandal has. It may boost Prince Ali's hopes but it could also cement support for Blatter by those nations angered by interference by western law enforcement and media in Fifa affairs.

Is Sepp Blatter implicated in the scandals engulfing Fifa?

Crucially, neither the FBI nor Swiss prosecutors have managed to unearth any actionable evidence against Blatter himself. De Gregorio made it clear that his boss had no intention of taking responsibility for the actions of those below him by withdrawing from tomorrow's election. Blatter will doubtless point out that the revelations yesterday relate mainly to alleged wrongdoing that took place before he was last elected as the Fifa president four years ago. But that will not end the calls for him to stand down over the endemic corruption that has permeated Fifa during his 17-year reign. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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