The investigation mostly revolved around collusion between officials of continental football bodies CONMEBOL (South America) and CONCACAF (Caribbean, Central and North America), and sports marketing executives. The sports marketing executives were holders of media and marketing rights for high-profile international competitions including the Americas' FIFA World Cup qualifying tournaments, and showpiece tournaments CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa América.
In total, seven current FIFA officials were arrested at the Hotel Baur au Lac in Zürich on 27 May. They were preparing to attend the 65th FIFA Congress, which was scheduled to include the election of the president of FIFA. They are expected to be extradited to the United States on suspicion of receiving US$150 million in bribes. There was also a simultaneous raid on the CONCACAF headquarters in Miami, and later, two further men handed themselves in to police for arrest: Jack Warner and marketing executive Alejandro Burzaco. Two further arrests of FIFA officials at the hotel occurred in December 2015.
In December 2010, federal law enforcement agents secured the undercover cooperation of American football executive and CONCACAF official Chuck Blazer. The FBI's New York office had begun its probe as a spin-off of an unrelated organised crime investigation, and in August 2011, IRS-CI's Los Angeles office began investigating Blazer's alleged failure to file personal income tax returns. In December 2011, IRS-CI became aware of what the FBI was up to from news reports and the two offices began a joint investigation of Blazer. They were investigating Blazer's involvement in the bidding process for host countries for the FIFA World Cups from the early 1990s onwards. (The United States is one of two countries that broadly exercise worldwide jurisdiction to tax the net income of its citizens from any source in the world; it also requires taxpayers to report and pay tax on illegal income, and exercises worldwide jurisdiction over all financial institutions with U.S.-based account holders.) Blazer agreed to cooperate almost immediately after two agents approached him in New York and confronted him with proof of his tax crimes.
In November 2013, Blazer pleaded guilty to 10 criminal charges including wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and offenses involving income tax and banking. Blazer's guilty plea had aimed to stave off a more serious charge of racketeering, which carried a potential 20-year prison sentence. Blazer would later make secret recordings of meetings with FIFA officials, and allegedly carried a recording device concealed in a key ring during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The information against Blazer (the charging document used in lieu of an indictment for a plea bargain) was revealed on 27 May 2015, the same day that the arrests were made in Zurich.
In 2011, Phaedra Al-Majid, who was part of the successful 2022 Qatari World Cup Bid, came forward as a whistle-blower. She claimed that Qatar paid $1.5 million to African Football Confederation president Issa Hayatou, Ivory Coast FIFA member Jacques Anouma and Nigeria's suspended official Amos Adamu to vote for Qatar; all three denied the allegations. She later stated that she had fabricated her claims for media attention. Al-Majid co-operated with the Garcia Report. In November 2014, she stated that she was coerced into withdrawing her allegations as she feared for her safety and due to her lack of legal representation. As of June 2015, she was in FBI protective custody, when she stated, "The FBI have everything... There are people who are annoyed with me [for speaking out], and what really irks them is that I'm a female, Muslim whistleblower.... I just don't think Blatter actually intends to quit. Everything he does is very calculated. He'll try very hard to save himself, I'm sure of it."
In May 2011, The Sunday Times published claims from a whistle-blower that President of CAFIssa Hayatou had, along with fellow Executive Committee member Jacques Anouma, accepted $1.5 million bribes from Qatar to secure his support for their bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In the wake of the corruption case, it was reported that in 2008 the general secretary of FIFA, Jérôme Valcke was alleged to have transferred $10 million that had been given to FIFA by Danny Jordaan, president of the South African Football Association, to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, then head of CONCACAF. The payment is a key piece of the American prosecutors' indictment that accuses Warner of taking a bribe in exchange for helping South Africa secure the right to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The payment from the South African Football Association had been intended to support the development of football in the Caribbean. $1.6 million of the South African payment was used by Warner to pay personal loans and cr cards and a further $360,000 was withdrawn by people connected to Warner. The Trinidadian supermarket chain JTA Supermarkets also received $4,860,000 from the FIFA payment.
2014 World Cup
The FBI also investigating the 2014 World Cup.
Laws used in charging
The Department of Justice has not charged anybody at FIFA with bribery. Prosecutors have instead alleged racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) Act, which was intended for use against the Mafia. In addition, officials have been charged with violations of the Travel Act. The relevant part of the law essentially says that it is illegal to engage in interstate or foreign travel, or use the mails or "any facility in interstate commerce" to promote, manage, establish or carry on an illegal activity. That activity can be illegal under either federal or state law. Bribery is definitely included on the list of what is considered an illegal activity under the Travel Act. Any relevant transaction, even if it is only tangentially related to America, can be targeted. In one instance, a representative of First Caribbean International Bank in the Bahamas flew to New York to pick up a cheque for $250,000 (the alleged bribe) from the bribe recipient to transport it safely back to the defendant's bank account.
FIFA commissioned former United States Attorney Michael J. Garcia to investigate and report on the bidding processes behind the awarding of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to Russia and the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar. In November 2014, FIFA made a copy of Garcia's report available to the Attorney General of Switzerland, who then stated that there were "grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities".
Sepp Blatter had been president of FIFA since 1998 (until his removal in December 2015). The Guardian said that FIFA's actions would "... inevitably be viewed with cynicism given Blatter's track record of using the Swiss courts and FIFA's regulatory processes to kick problematic issues into the long grass and deflect attention onto individuals who have already left football".
In May 2015, on the same day as the arrests resulting from the FBI's investigation and in a separate action, the Swiss prosecuting authorities launched a criminal inquiry on "suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering" concerning the 2018 and 2022 bidding processes. The Swiss authorities seized "electronic data and documents" in a raid on FIFA's Zürich headquarters. The Swiss police also planned to question ten members of the FIFA Executive Committee who participated in the December 2010 votes that chose the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 world cups.
In September 2015, Switzerland was investigating a payment Blatter authorised in 2011 to the president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)Michel Platini for work done between 1999 and 2002. They also launched an investigation of possible "criminal mismanagement" by Blatter in a 2005 TV rights deal he signed with Jack Warner.
In March 2017 FIFA submitted 1300 pages of reports to the Swiss Attorney General's office. The investigation is expected to take up to 5 years to complete.
In September 2015, Swiss public television channel SRF published that Blatter would have sold the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup rights in North America for US$600,000, a small fraction of their market value.
Torneos & Traffic (T&T) is a subsidiary of Fox International Channels since 2005 (with investments since 2002) is the same company involved in corrupt practices in the acquisition of rights to major South American football tournaments.
Indicted individuals and corporations
A total of 18 individuals and two corporations have been indicted, including nine FIFA officials and five businessmen.
Following investigations Swiss magistrate Thomas Hildbrand seized documents from FIFA offices in 2005 and in 2007 Jennings published a book – Foul – and broadcast the BBCPanorama documentary "The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup".Panorama later aired the "Fifa and Co" documentary in 2007, which contained an allegation of soliciting a bribe against Jack Warner and a court judgement that Jérôme Valcke had lied in FIFA business dealings. These reports led the FBI to contact Jennings in 2009.
On 29 November 2010 the BBC broadcast FIFA's Dirty Secrets, a second documentary by Jennings. This was aired just days before the results of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bids in Zurich, Switzerland. Following the bidding process, FIFA announced that Russia and Qatar had won the rights to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively. The result immediately caused controversies, as Russia is accused of a high level of racism in football and because of its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. After it was announced that Russia would host 2018 FIFA World Cup, Dr Rafał Pankowski, a head of UEFA FARE Monitoring Centre, accused the Russian Football Union of downplaying racist chants in stadiums. The annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014 led to several British and American politicians calling on FIFA to overturn its decision of hosting the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Criticism from a number of media outlets, sporting experts, and human rights groups also highlighted problems such as Qatar's limited football history, the high expected cost, the local climate, and Qatar's human rights record. Since in summer temperature will reach more than 50 °C (122 °F) in Qatar, it was announced on 24 February 2015 that a winter world cup would go ahead in favour of the traditional summertime event.
In 2011, former MI6 spy Christopher Steele began providing information and sources to the FBI, which helped advance the investigation.
In May 2011 a whistleblower, later revealed to be Phaedra Almajid who was a member of the Qatari bid team for the 2022 World Cup, claimed that money was paid to FIFA's executive committee in order to buy votes. However, she retracted these claims in July 2011, later claiming that she had been coerced into making these retractions.
On May 2013, former CONCACAF executive Chuck Blazer was arrested (and later indicted) on bribery charges. Jack Warner and Blazer were suspended from FIFA at around the same time. Then on 17 October 2014 FIFA announced that the Garcia Report into alleged bribery during the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bids could not be released in full for legal reasons. Garcia later claimed that a summary of the report that was released misrepresents his findings.
Later on 27 May, former FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner surrendered himself to police in his native Trinidad, where a court granted him bail. He spent a night in custody while bail was processed.
On 31 May he posted a self-defence video on his Facebook page in which he proclaimed innocence while citing an article from satirical newspaper The Onion. However, on 3 June and following both the resignation of Sepp Blatter and the revelations of the former FIFA Executive Chuck Blazer, Warner declared in a televised political address that he was no longer prepared to "keep secrets for them who actively seek to destroy the country" (Trinidad and Tobago) and that the "gloves [were] off". He also claimed to have "compiled a comprehensive and detailed series of documents including cheques and corroborating statements" which he said revealed his "knowledge about certain transactions at FIFA including, but not limited to its president Sepp Blatter". Claiming further that he feared for his life, he declared, "(N)ot even death will stop the avalanche that is coming. The die is cast. There can be no turning back. Let the chips fall where they fall." l
The existence of a U.S. federal investigation and grand jury based in Brooklyn was first made public in November 2014 by The New York Daily News.
On 27 May 2015, during the FIFA annual meeting at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, authorities charged 14 officials, including nine current or former FIFA executives, including FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb. All faced extradition to the United States. On the same day, the Swiss attorney general's office said that other FIFA executives were being questioned on suspicion of "criminal mismanagement" and money laundering.
On 2 June 2015 a letter was published, claiming that Jérôme Valcke was party to a potential bribe paid to former FIFA executive Jack Warner in relation to votes for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Despite his win just four days previously, Sepp Blatter announced his resignation as FIFA President.
The following day, South Africa sports minister Fikile Mbalula denied the $10 million payment to Warner was a bribe.
Later that day, the FBI unsealed the transcript of the allocution made by former FIFA member and head of CONCACAF, Chuck Blazer which he had made when he pleaded guilty in 2013 to various charges as part of an apparent plea bargain. In Blazer's partially-redacted allocution, he claimed that he "and others, while acting in our official capacities, agreed to participate in a scheme to defraud FIFA and CONCACAF of the right to honest services by taking undisclosed bribes" and that he had "agreed with others in or around 1992 to facilitate the acceptance of a bribe in conjunction with the selection of the host nation for the 1998 World Cup. I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup".
On 6 June, Phaedra Almajid, who had been placed under the protective custody of the FBI, claimed that FIFA would be forced to strip Qatar from hosting the 2022 World Cup.
On 17 September 2015, FIFA stated that Jérôme Valcke had been put on leave and released from his duties until further notice. The decision was made by the FIFA Emergency Committee after a series of allegations implicated Valcke of selling World Cup tickets for above face value.
On 25 September, criminal proceedings were started against Blatter by Swiss prosecutors on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. Blatter denied any wrongdoing.
On 8 October 2015, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Secretary General Jerome Valcke and UEFA President Michel Platini were suspended for 90 days by FIFA's Ethics Committee. Blatter appealed the suspension but lost the appeal on 18 November 2015.
German police searched the headquarters of the German Football Association over allegations of illegal deals before the 2006 World Cup. The head of president of the German Football Association, Wolfgang Niersbach, resigned. Marco Polo del Nero of Brazil, president of the Brazilian football federation announced his resignation from FIFA Executive Committee on 26 November 2015.
On 3 December 2015, FIFA vice-presidents Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout were arrested on suspicion of bribery in the same Zurich hotel where seven FIFA officials had been arrested in May 2015. Hours later, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed an additional 16 indictments for criminal schemes; as well, former CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb pleaded guilty to money laundering, wire fraud and racketeering.
On 21 December, the FIFA Ethics Committee banned both Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini for eight years from all football-related activity organised by FIFA after being found guilty of a £1.3 million ($2 million) "disloyal payment" made to Platini in 2011. Blatter said he would appeal the verdict.
On 9 January 2016, the FIFA Emergency Committee decided to dismiss Jérôme Valcke as FIFA Secretary General and to terminate his employment relationship.
Media in front of FIFA headquarters after Blatter's resignation
On 29 May 2015 Sepp Blatter won re-election to the FIFA presidency at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich amid growing criticism over his position. Four days later, however, he announced that he would continue as president only until a new election would be conducted at a 2016 FIFA Extraordinary Congress on 26 February 2016. Blatter said that he would not be a candidate for election at that time. Blatter maintained "I did not resign, I put myself and my office in the hands of the FIFA congress."
Upon the decision of the FIFA Adjudicatory Chamber of the Independent Ethics Committee to provisionally ban Blatter, FIFA recognizes Issa Hayatou as the interim president of FIFA in accordance with article 32 (6) of the FIFA Statutes.
Suspended World Cup bid
On 10 June 2015, FIFA announced that they would be delaying the 2026 FIFA World Cup bidding process, amidst allegations surrounding bribery in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes. Secretary general Valcke stated that "Due to the situation, I think it's nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being."
According to the US Department of Justice web site, the following defendants previously pleaded guilty under seal and agreed to forfeit more than $40 million.
On 26 May 2015, Zorana Danis, the co-founder and owner of International Soccer Marketing Inc., a New Jersey-based sports marketing company, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging her with wire fraud conspiracy and filing false tax returns. As part of her plea, Danis agreed to forfeit $2 million.
On 9 November 2015, Fabio Tordin, the former CEO of Traffic Sports USA Inc. and currently an executive with Media World LLC, a Miami-based sports marketing company, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a four-count information charging him with three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of tax evasion. As part of his plea, Tordin agreed to forfeit more than $600,000.
On 12 November 2015, Luis Bedoya, a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, a CONMEBOL vice president and the president of the Federación Colombiana de Fútbol, the Colombian soccer federation, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. As part of his plea, Bedoya agreed to forfeit all funds on deposit in his Swiss bank account, among other funds.
On 16 November 2015, Alejandro Burzaco, the former general manager and chairman of the board of Torneos y Competencias S.A., an Argentinian sports marketing company, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Burzaco agreed to forfeit more than $21.6 million.
On 17 November 2015, Roger Huguet, the CEO of Media World and its parent company, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Huguet agreed to forfeit more than $600,000.
On 23 November 2015, Jeffrey Webb, a former FIFA vice president and Executive Committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union Executive Committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association president, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Webb agreed to forfeit more than $6.7 million.
On 23 November 2015, Sergio Jadue, a vice president of CONMEBOL and, until last month, the president of the Asociación Nacional de Fútbol Profesional de Chile, the Chilean soccer federation, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. As part of his plea, Jadue agreed to forfeit all funds on deposit in his U.S. bank account, among other funds.
On 25 November 2015, José Margulies, the controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd, who served as an intermediary who facilitated illicit payments between sports marketing executives and soccer officials, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and two counts of money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Margulies agreed to forfeit more than $9.2 million.
Brazil – Senator and former Brazilian footballer Romário stated that "unfortunately, it wasn't our police that arrested them, but someone had to eventually arrest them one day". He has been an outspoken critic of the alleged corruption of FIFA.
Costa Rica – The Attorney General of Costa Rica opened a money laundering probe on Eduardo Li, stating that "even though most of the events took place outside of Costa Rica, it is our responsibility to follow up on that and find out if any crimes were committed here".
Germany – Justice Minister Heiko Maas requested a full investigation on FIFA and stated that "it is clear that FIFA is not above the law either and that the accusations must be investigated. I think every football fan has a right to know that corruption in football and in international football has no room".
Paraguay – The Foreign Ministry of Paraguay announced that they received an extradition request from the United States for Nicolás Leoz, and that they will forward the request to the Supreme Court of Justice for a further review. Also, the Senate approved on 11 June 2015, the repeal of a law granting immunity to the headquarters of CONMEBOL in order to gain access to the premises for investigation.
Russia – At the end of May 2015, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the arrest: "Without going into details about the charges that have been brought up, we point to the fact that this is another case of the illegal extraterritorial application of U.S. laws ... Once again, we urge Washington to stop trying to set itself up as a judge far outside its borders and to follow the generally accepted international legal procedures". Russia's president Vladimir Putin publicly said he saw the corruption investigations as an attempt by the U.S. to oust Sepp Blatter from his post as punishment for continuing to support Russia as host for the 2018 World Cup.
Switzerland – Ueli Maurer, a member of the Swiss Federal Council, spoke at the opening of the FIFA Congress where he emphasized that Switzerland condemns any form of corruption. On 28 May, Maurer also said that FIFA is out of balance and in a need for action to restore its credibility. Calling for reform, he refused to scapegoat Blatter reminding some of his achievements for youth in football.
United Kingdom – The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport of the United Kingdom, John Whittingdale, stated that he fully supported The Football Association's position "that significant and wide-ranging reforms are urgently needed at the very top of FIFA, including a change in its leadership". Prime Minister David Cameron also backed calls for Blatter to quit as President of FIFA stating: "You cannot have accusations of corruption at this level and on this scale in this organisation and pretend that the person currently leading it is the right person to take it forward. That cannot be the case. Frankly, what we've seen is the ugly side of the beautiful game and he should go. And the sooner that happens the better – the faster that organisation can start to rebuild its credibility, which is going to be so important because so many people around the world want to see this game properly managed, properly looked after, so we can all enjoy the World Cups of the future."
Continental football organizations
The AFC (Asia) stated that it is "against any form of corruption in football and fully supports any actions taken by the independent FIFA Ethics Committee where wrongdoing may have occurred, whether such actions affect Asian officials or otherwise." Moreover, it opposed postponing the FIFA Congress and reiterated its support for Blatter.
CONCACAF (North America, Central America and Caribbean) stated that it "is deeply concerned by today's developments, in the arrest of several international football officials including those belonging to our Confederation. The Confederation will continue to cooperate with the authorities to its fullest capacity. At present, CONCACAF is not in a position to comment further on the specific allegations, which have been referred to the appropriate legal counsel through the pertinent channels. CONCACAF continues to operate in the ordinary course of business, hosting all of its upcoming tournaments in a successful and timely manner, including the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup."
CONMEBOL (South America) – The South American Football Confederation issued a resolution to "repudiate all acts of corruption, and unreservedly support the investigations initiated toward FIFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, and other organizations regarding alleged wrongdoing," and "will agree to collaborate openly and emphatically with such investigations."
UEFA (Europe) stated: "[t]hese events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA's culture. There is a need for the whole of FIFA to be 'rebooted' and for a real reform to be carried out." UEFA president Michel Platini explicitly demanded Blatter to step down before his re-election.
National football federations
Costa Rica – Rodolfo Villalobos, the next in line for the presidency of the Costa Rican Football Federation, and with the backing of its other board members, announced that he would not vote for Blatter as a result of the ongoing revelations.
England – David Gill, as the newly elected British FIFA Vice-President and FIFA Executive Committee board member, threatened to resign his role if Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA President for a fifth term in protest at his leadership following the corruption scandal. Blatter was re-elected, and Gill immediately rejected his position in protest, saying "I simply do not see how there will be change for the good of world football while Mr Blatter remains in post." After Blatter resigned on 2 June 2015, Gill announced that he would "reconsider [his] position", since he had "yet to confirm formally [his] resignation", and followed this up by saying "I am more than willing to play my part in helping to bring about a positive future for FIFA and to work with the many people within the organisation who are only committed to developing and promoting the game around the world."
Guinea-Bissau – Manuel Nascimento Lopes, the president of the Federação de Futebol da Guiné-Bissau, said that "I'm a Christian and this is blasphemy" in response to people blaming Blatter for the actions of other people. Lopes also said that "It's a state conspiracy. People are always trying to knock Blatter. Africa will vote for Mr. Blatter and I will follow that. I agree at some point there has to be change but let Blatter finish his mandate and see what he does."
Ireland – The Football Association of Ireland's chief executive John Delaney, speaking on national radio after Blatter's resignation, recalled: "In 2009, when Blatter insulted Ireland in the aftermath of the Thierry Henry handball incident I called him an embarrassment to FIFA and to himself. He called me over about that, across the table like I am talking to you, with one or two expletives. That was in a room. He said, 'No-one speaks to me like that', and I said, 'well I do' and that was that." In 2009, Delaney said of the handball incident, "It's not about money. This is about sporting integrity." In June 2015, Delaney confirmed that FIFA gave the FAI a "loan" of €5 million which was in effect a payment not to proceed with legal action over the handball decision and consequent elimination from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The loan was written off in 2014.
On 12 June 2015, international law enforcement agency Interpol announced it was suspending a 20 million euro donation by FIFA to fund an anti-gambling and match fixing program. Four million euros was spent in the first two years on prevention and education and another 1.5 million euros was set to be spent in the remaining eight years.
An Interpol spokesman said, "The agreement with FIFA includes a clause which states that 'the Funding Party declares notably that its activities are compatible with the principles, aims and activities of Interpol'. All external partners, whether public or private, must share the fundamental values and principles of the organisation, as well as the wider law enforcement community."
FIFA said it was disappointed by the decision.
The donation for the 10-year Integrity in Sport program was originally accepted in 2011 by former Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble.
^"Acting FIFA President Issa Hayatou". FIFA. Retrieved 22 December 2015. On 8 October 2015, given the decision of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Independent Ethics Committee to provisionally ban Joseph S. Blatter from all football activities on a national and international level, Issa Hayatou assumed the Office of FIFA President on an interim basis, as the longest-serving vice-president on FIFA's Executive Committee - according to article 32 (6) of the FIFA Statutes.