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May 28, 2015

FIFA soccer officials arrested on corruption charges

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U.S. officials arrested 14 people yesterday on charges involving more than $150 million in illegal bribes for FIFA, the governing body for international soccer.

The U.S. Justice Department alleges that FIFA officials commonly accepted bribes for business decisions and engaged in racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and other illegal activities. The indictment lists 47 charges against 14 people, all top officials in soccer and sports marketing.

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

FIFA officials collected bribes from several countries vying to host the World Cup. They also covered up illegal payments through fake contracts, smuggling and other means.

FIFA had a reputation for being corrupt in the past, but it had avoided major charges in part because of its lack of oversight from the government in Switzerland where it operates, ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap said.

The FIFA officials face U.S. federal charges and charges in the Eastern District of New York, and some will have to be extradited to the U.S. to appear in court.

A former FIFA official, Chuck Blazer, assisted prosecutors during the investigation. Blazer had pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2013 and helped police collect evidence. The Justice Department stressed that it would continue working to root out corruption in the ongoing investigation.


Warm up questions
  1. Who decides the rules of soccer?
  2. What is the World Cup and where did the last one take place?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why is soccer such a profitable sport?
  2. How were FIFA officials illegally profiting off of soccer games?
  3. Why is the U.S. able to pursue these charges against a foreign organization?
  4. How does a scandal like this affect your attitude towards professional sports?
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