An American conspiracy against Vladimir Putin is the root cause of the FIFA corruption scandal probe that is actively being pursued by the United States, Russian officials alleged Wednesday. They said the probe was perfectly timed just when the next FIFA World Cup is to be held in Russia and Mr Putin is passionate in overseeing the preparations.
FIFA World Cup corruption scandal
On May 27, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a 47-count indictment charging 14 FIFA officials and five corporate executives with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. The crimes were committed in a 24-year scheme aimed to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer, the announcement stated. Four of the FIFA officials and two of the FIFA corporate executives charged have pleaded guilty, the announcement said.
Meanwhile, Swiss authorities have also arrested seven of those charged and have also seized data and documents stored in IT systems of the FIFA office in Zurich. The confiscation of data is part of the “collection of evidence on cooperative basis,” the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland said in a separate announcement.
There is U.S. conspiracy behind FIFA scandal
Russian officials, who have spoken with the TIME, question U.S. motive of actively pursuing the case. They asked why a nation known to be indifferent to soccer heads the probing against officials of the international soccer governing body.
“So there are clearly forces in America that are trying to turn anything positive that we have into a new channel of confrontation,” said Kirill Kabanov, Russian council on civil society.
“And even if there was bribery going on [at FIFA], why would the Americans only bring it up now, just after FIFA refused the demands of [U.S.] Senators to revoke Russia’s right to host the champions?” Kabanov told TIME.
Kabanov is referring to the letter of 13 U.S. Senators in April that calls for FIFA to deny Russia the privilege of hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“With the goal of ending the crisis in Ukraine and ensuring a successful 2018 World Cup, we strongly encourage FIFA to deny the Putin regime the privilege of hosting the 2018 World Cup and make preparations for an alternate host country,” the senators wrote.
FIFA officials indicted for corruption
The charges against FIFA officials and corporate executives were announced by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Acting U.S. Attorney Keyyy Curie and Director James B Comey of the FBI.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. 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,” Lynch said.
Lynch said the deeply-rooted corruption harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should have benefited from the revenue by the commercial rights managed by FIFA. The corruption is also damning to the fans at home and throughout the world.
Swiss authorities in Zurich arrested seven of the defendants charged in the indictment: Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin. Those who pleaded guilty include Charles Blazer, the long-serving former general secretary of CONCACAF and former U.S. representative on the FIFA executive committee and José Hawilla, owner and founder of the Traffic Group, which is a multinational sports marketing conglomerate in Brazil.
“Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie.
“After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start – a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States. Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation,” Curie said.
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