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Thursday, May 28, 2015

FIFA trouble ~ indictment in US - arrests in Switzerland ... !!

The Sporting World is really trembling ~ Indian Premier League has had its share of problems – match fixing allegations, scams and allegations of financial irregularities and more  – and there were people who kept referring to football league being much bigger and soccer being followed by billions globally.   Football is much more than just a game. Its universal appeal means it has a unique power and  reach which must be managed carefully.   Football can inspire communities and break down barriers. Football is for all. FIFA believes that everybody has the right to play football free from discrimination or prejudice and we are striving to ensure that this is the case.  FIFA was founded on 21 May 1904 in Paris by delegates from Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The founders created the first FIFA statutes, unifying the laws of the game to make it fair and clear to all players setting the foundation for all future football development.  This is what Gary Linekar tweeted :

FIFA, a multibillion-dollar organization that governs soccer but has been plagued by accusations of bribery for decades, had several top officials arrested early Wednesday.   The US  Department of Justice indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment also named sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is an association governed by Swiss law founded in 1904 and based in Zurich. It has 209 member associations and its goal, enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football.  It’s  mission is stated to be developing ‘football everywhere and for all’. FIFA’s primary objective is "to improve the game of football constantly and promote it globally in the light of its unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values, particularly through youth and development programmes".  They claim to share their  success of the FIFA World Cup to support football development projects in our 209 member associations across the globe.  Their second objective is to organise international football competitions. FIFA’s goal is to touch, unite and inspire the world through its competitions and events.

In a dramatic dawn raid, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss police officers arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich stormed the rooms where senior officials from the world football's governing body were staying. Members from the executive committee were then led away by police through the side exit of the hotel, with many using bedsheets to shield themselves from the public eye.  The timing of the arrests was explosive – coming just two days before the FIFA presidential election, which has already been dogged by controversy and claims of corruption.  Sepp Blatter, who is widely expected to win a fifth term at the helm, had actively lobbied for a postponement of Friday's presidential ballot, according to FIFA insiders.  At a hastily arranged press conference, FIFA portrayed itself as the victim, saying the double investigations had 'damaged' the organisation.

Two criminal investigations into corruption at football's world governing body Fifa are under way, with seven top officials arrested in Zurich. The seven are among 14 indicted on corruption charges in a US inquiry, the US Department of Justice said. The second criminal case was launched by Swiss prosecutors into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, to be held in Russia and Qatar respectively.
US attorney announces indictment !!

Fifa's Zurich headquarters has been raided, with electronic data and documents seized. US authorities searched the headquarters of Concacaf - the Fifa confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean - in Miami, Florida, as part of their investigations.  The US justice department said 14 individuals were under investigation worldwide for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period.  The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "Today's announcement should send a message that enough is enough," Acting US Attorney Kelly Currie said. Several officials have already pleaded guilty, the US Department of Justice says. These include Charles "Chuck" Blazer, the former head of Concacaf, who was previously on the Fifa executive committee.

Many have wondered how Sepp Blatter can have been in charge of Fifa for so long amid so many reports of corruption and yet remain, apparently, untouched.  One Swiss newspaper jokingly called him "the dark prince of football, the godfather, Don Blatterone" - but no inquiry has ever revealed proof of his involvement in corruption. What emerges, finally, is a man who both critics and supporters say cannot imagine his life without Fifa, a man whose tenure as president has outlasted three marriages. But as scandal follows scandal, Mr Blatter's determination not to leave his post willingly could see him bundled unceremoniously out of the back door.

Both Swiss and US justice officials said the indicted officials had allegedly received $150m worth of bribes from the early 1990s for football tournaments in the US and Latin America. The alleged crimes were agreed to and prepared in the US via US bank accounts, the office of the Swiss prosecutor said, adding that the Swiss authorities could immediately approve the extradition. In the second case, Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings "against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups".

Money involved in the two-decade-old bribery scheme passed through U.S. banks including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to the U.S. Justice Department’s indictment. That helps give the U.S. the right to pursue prosecutions against the foreign nationals involved, and also to examine the role of the banks, acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie in Brooklyn, N.Y., said at a news conference Wednesday.  The indictment doesn’t accuse the banks of wrongdoing, and didn’t indicate whether transfers in the FIFA case should have raised alarms or whether banks alerted the government. Financial firms in the U.S. are obligated to flag suspicious transactions to federal money-laundering authorities.  In one case dating back a decade, executives from a company seeking Caribbean media rights for the 2010 World Cup wired $40,000 from an account at Citibank in Miami to a correspondent account at Wachovia Bank. The money was later transferred to a German bank account held by a Caribbean football official, according to the indictment.

Reports by investigative journalists have earlier  linked FIFA leadership with rapaciousness, corruption, bribery, and alleged vote-rigging pursuant to the election of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the organization's decision to simultaneously award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.  FIFA officials are accused of taking bribes totaling more than $150 million and in return providing "lucrative media and marketing rights" to soccer tournaments as kickbacks over the past 24 years.  Now these allegations  have culminated with the indictments of nine high-ranking FIFA officials and five corporate executives by the United States Attorney; several  of these officials being taken into custody for questioning by Swiss authorities, who were launching a simultaneous, but separate criminal investigation into how the organization awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Those who, among these officials, were also indicted in the U.S. are expected to be extradited to face charges there as well.  The U.S. Justice Department unsealed a 47-count indictment in federal court in Brooklyn that detailed charges against 14 people accused of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. The most serious are the racketeering charges, which allege that the officials turned soccer "into a criminal enterprise," – right now the investigations appear much more complex and  the head of the IRS Criminal Investigation division is quoted as saying - "This really is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card."

The indictment "is the beginning of our work, not the end" of an effort to rid global soccer of corruption, said Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Officials claims the action to be something that no other police organization or other region has done so far on FIFA.  It is also stated that they are now seeing a  very powerful jurisdiction take action against a very powerful, opaque organization, FIFA."  Soccer’s biggest sponsors have so far been largely silent on the Fifa news but that is unlikely to last. In 2014 Coca-Cola took the unusual step of publicly criticising Fifa’s own investigation into corruption allegations surrounding Russia and Qatar’s bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.   

Gary Winston Lineker,  whose tweet you saw at the start holds England's record for goals in FIFA World Cup finals, with 10 scored.  He played five games in the 1986 World Cup, and was top scorer of the tournament with six goals, winning the Golden Boot, making him the first and to this day only English player to have done so.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28th May 2015.

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