June 8, 2015
US Authorities Indict FIFA Officials, Seek Extradition
The Department of Justice has unsealed a 47 count indictment against 14 individuals related to allegations of FIFA corruption, including charges of tax fraud, money laundering, wire fraud, and racketeering. As part of the alleged conspiracy spanning 25 years, the co-conspirators used false consulting agreements to disguise the illicit payment of bribes, as well as the use of shell entities and numbered bank accounts in various tax havens around the world.
On Wednesday, May 27, Swiss authorities raided FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. They also announced that they have launched an investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar. Both bids have been under fire for allegations of bribery, while the Qatar bid also faces a host of other criticisms, including the deaths of more than 1,000 migrant workers to date related to construction of the World Cup venues.
U.S. prosecutors are now seeking extradition of the indicted officials, many of whom were arrested while staying at the same hotel in Switzerland, ahead of an upcoming vote to select FIFA’s president. The US-Switzerland extradition treaty has been a hot-button issue in recent years, due to Swiss refusal to extradite individuals accused of tax crimes. There are currently dozens of Swiss banking fugitives who have been indicted in the United States but refuse to appear to face charges. Prosecutors have also begun the process of seeking extradition of defendants located in Argentina.
IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Richard Weber said that he expects another round of indictments to follow. US officials told the New York Times that Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, is a target of the ongoing investigation. Blatter, who has held the position since 1998, has announced that he will step down.
It is common in these types of investigations for prosecutors to start with lower-level defendants and seek their cooperation in order to build cases against the bigger fish. Four individuals have already entered guilty pleas. Cooperation generally leads to more favorable plea agreements, as well as the government’s acquiescence to a more lenient sentence. In certain cases, a person who substantially cooperates can enter into a non-prosecution agreement with the government.