Football’s legendary figure Diego Armando Maradona often points at the FIFA chief and other officials citing them as “corrupt rulers” of the game. For people following the game’s apex governing body, allegations of multimillion corruption against FIFA is no new issue. But what’s surprising or unprecedented was that somebody revealed something substantial to nab them on Wednesday.
A 47-count indictment of racketeering, money-laundering conspiracy and wire fraud against 14 FIFA officials at Federal Court, Brooklyn was unsealed by the U.S. Justice department.
Officials have turned the beautiful game into a “criminal enterprise,” according to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, adding the most serious charges are of racketeering. Lynch spoke to reporters at New York on Wednesday and clarified that a conviction could land the guilty officials in prison for 20 years.
“The idea of being shocked about bribery and racketeering at FIFA is like being shocked about jumping into a pool and finding yourself wet,” pointed out Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation magazine.
“What makes this particularly different is the fact that this time it looks like the charges have real teeth. I mean, coming from the U.S. Department of Justice, that’s a first. That’s never happened before.”
Considering the complicity of the case, Lynch is accompanied by federal officials like FBI Director James Comey and Richard Weber, head of the IRS Criminal Investigation division.
“This really is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card,” Weber said.
There are accusations of taking bribes worth $150 million against the FIFA bosses in return of providing lucrative media and marketing rights of various soccer tournaments for a span of 24 years.
“The defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” Comey said in a statement. “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA.”
It is also alleged that the right to host the 2010 World Cup was “awarded” to South Africa ahead of Morocco and Egypt as they offered the highest $10 million bribe to Jack Warner, a committee member from Trinidad & Tobago.
The booked officials now face extradition in the United States.