An FBI investigation led to the arrest Wednesday of seven top officials of FIFA, the organization that governs world soccer, in Switzerland.
Overall, 14 people will face 47 racketeering, corruption, money laundering and wire fraud charges. The investigation alleges, among other accusations, that members of FIFA’s executive committee accepted bribes for media deals, and sold their votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which will be held in Russia and Qatar.
The U.S. Department of Justice led the investigation because of American laws that grant it broad powers to investigate foreign nationals. Much of the investigation focuses on Concacaf, the FIFA sub-organization that oversees soccer in North and South America. CONCACAF is headquartered in Miami.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement that the investigation “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.”
Many of those officials are recently retired leaders in FIFA and Concacaf. One of the accused, South American football executive Nicolás Leoz, resigned after he reportedly tried to receive a knighthood from England in exchange for voting for it as a host of the 2018 World Cup.
Another accused, José Margulies, is charged as a go-between for illegal payments, according to The New York Times.
FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, was not among those charged, though many in soccer see him as a symbol of the corruption that pervades FIFA. He has led the federation since 1998 and is expected to win a fifth term in the group’s leadership election on Friday.
Likewise, FIFA has said that it does not plan on reopening the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Russia and Qatar themselves are seen skeptically for their role in winning hosting rights against all odds, though they have denied all accusations of corruption.
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