Seven officials with the world soccer body Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, were arrested Wednesday, charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering after a sweeping probe alleging corruption spanning two decades.
Fourteen people, including nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives, were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Of the 14 indicted, four individual defendants and two corporations already have pleaded guilty in the U.S. soccer corruption investigation alleging bribes totaling more than $150 million to obtain media and marketing rights to World Cup soccer tournaments.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the charges on Wednesday. “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Lynch. “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”
Also early Wednesday, Swiss authorities in Zurich arrested Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and Jose Maria Marin as they were attending FIFA’s annual meeting at the upscale Baur au Lac hotel. They are now awaiting extradition to the United States.
Those who pleaded guilty included Charles Blazer, the former general secretary of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF, and former U.S. representative on the FIFA executive committee; Jose Hawilla, owner and founder of Brazil-based sports marketing firm Traffic Group; and two of Hawilla’s companies, Traffic Sports International Inc. and Traffic Sports USA Inc. based in Florida.
“FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football,” the organization said in a statement. “FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard.”
FIFA longtime president Sepp Blatter was not arrested. He is up for reelection for a fifth term on Friday. A FIFA spokesman said the election would go ahead as planned.
See a full list of defendants. They face maximum jail terms of 20 years.