World football gurus are arrested for corruption in Switzerland; a Brazilian is in the middle- The Swiss police made a surprise and film-worthy operation and arrested for corruption in one of Zurich's luxury hotels, 14 people, nine leaders of Fifa-five international sports marketing executives.
Police raided a five star hotel and made the arrests. The former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Jose Maria Marin, is one of the prisoners. The FIFA president Joseph Blatter, is not among the prisoners, and it is denied he is under US investigation.
FIFA is under two separate investigations: one US and one from Switzerland.
The prisoners can be extradited to the United States. The Swiss Federal Department of Justice said it was questioning 10 leaders on the vote to choose the headquarters of the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. An official note of the country's Attorney General said that criminal proceedings have been opened on the case.
Delegates from nearly all the football associations around the world are in Zurich for the FIFA Congress, scheduled for this Friday (28/05), in which Joseph Blatter will try to get his fifth term as president of the organization.
The charges were based on an investigation by the FBI, the American federal police, which began in 2011 and suggest widespread corruption in FIFA for 20 years, involving a dispute over the right to host the World Cup of Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022), as well as marketing and televising contracts. Blatter's rival in the election, Saudi Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, commented to the British broadcaster BBC: "Today is a sad day for football. It is a story in progress, details of which are still appearing."
Sources of American justice say that 14 people linked to FIFA will be indicted for crimes such as fraud, money laundering and extortion. They would be the quoted Webb (Cayman Islands), deputy chief executive officer and president of CONCACAF; Eugenio Figueredo (Uruguay), which also includes the executive vice president of the committee and until recently was president of Conmebol; Jack Warner (Trinidad and Tobago), former vice-president of FIFA and former president of CONCACAF, previously accused of numerous ethical violations; Julio Rocha (Nicaragua), President of the Nicaraguan Federation; Costas Takkas; Rafael Esquivel; Nicolás Leoz, former president of Conmebol; and the Brazilian José Maria Marin, former president of the CBF.
Another already identified is Eduardo Li, president of the Costa Rican Federation. After being apprehended, the official was conducted by police along with his luggage and immediately left the hotel through a side door. In addition to the leaders, five marketing executives will also be indicted.
The Swiss Justice released a statement informing that the six accused were arrested and await extradition proceedings to the US. He said US officials accuse those suspected of receiving millions of dollars in bribes. The choices of Russia and Qatar as the headquarters for the next two World Cups (2018 and 2022) can be the focus of investigations.
Joseph Blatter is not among the accused, but his name appears in the list of investigated by the police. According to information from American TV "CNN", the FBI was already working on the case for about three years.
The surprise operation was carried out by plainclothes police, who went to the counter in Hotel Baur au Lac and already in possession of the keys, went up to the rooms of the suspects, making arrests.
All the accused answer, among others, to wire fraud, extortion and money laundering.
The scandal of the arrests in Zurich can compromise Blatter's re-election bid for the presidency of FIFA. Fourteen people - nine leaders of Fifa and five executives of sports marketing - are accused of crimes such as extortion and money laundering. The three main lines of research are:
1 - the alleged payment of bribes of the organizers of the tournaments of Russia, in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022, FIFA leaders to ensure that countries were chosen as headquarters.
2 - overpricing of CBF's contract with a supply sporting goods company.
3 - the purchase of broadcast rights for sports marketing agencies in the following championships: Copa America Centennial, editions of the Copa America, Libertadores of America and Brazil Cup (tournament Brazilian clubs).
The investigation accuses sports marketing companies of paying bribes to confederations, original owners of those rights. The American research has been conducted for years by the FBI and covers corruption in Fifa for the past twenty years. The corruption scheme would have moved over $ 150 million. All prisoners will be extradited to the United States.
US Department of Justice says that six accused have already pleaded guilty, including Joseph Hawilla, who is already condemned in the process and owns the sports marketing firm Traffic, negotiating rights with CONMEBOL competitions, Concacaf and the CBF.
The prisoners face up to 20 years in prison each. According to the Attorney General of Justice of the United States, Loretta Lynch, the next step of the process is the extradition of the prisoners, accused of corruption and embezzlement of around 470 million.
But the attorney Kelly Currie, New York, United States, added that the extradition process is just the starting point of the investigation into the corruption scandal in FIFA. "I want to be clear that today is only the beginning of our efforts. We want to continue with the collaboration of all who are willing to work with us in continuing efforts to get the football in this scheme," he said.
The reports released by the American Justice include 14 defendants - nine directors and five entrepreneurs - and were executed in a joint action of the FBI and the Swiss police. "We thank the authorities who made the arrests. The next step is that the defendants come to the United States, and we will ask the Swiss authorities to transfer custody," said Attorney General Lynch.
According to investigations, the funds diversion charges extend for over 20 years.
The United States Department of Justice asserts that the defendants, as well as FIFA itself, are involved in irregularities in the sale of commercial rights tournaments, contracts of sports marketing and television companies. (With information from international news agencies).
António Carlos Lacerda
Translated by Ekaterina Santos