Swiss open criminal proceedings in 2018, ’22 World Cup votes

Swiss federal prosecutors opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, throwing FIFA deeper into crisis only hours after six soccer officials were arrested and 14 indicted Wednesday in a separate US corruption probe.
FIFA, meanwhile, said Fridayand’s presidential election would go ahead as planned with Sepp Blatter going for a fifth term. Blatter was not named in either investigation.
FIFA also ruled out a revote of the World Cups won by Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
The Swiss prosecutorsand’ office said in a statement they seized andquotelectronic data and documentsandquot at FIFAand’s headquarters on Wednesday as part of their probe. And Swiss police said they will question 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.
The Swiss investigation against andquotpersons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money launderingandquot again throws into the doubt the integrity of the voting.
The announcement came only hours after six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police pending extradition at the request of US authorities after a raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich.
The case involves bribes andquottotaling more than $100 millionandquot linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.
The Swiss prosecutorsand’ office said the US probe was separate from its investigation but that authorities were working together.
Dozens of soccer officials are in Switzerland for the FIFA congress and presidential election, where Blatter is widely expected to win re-election at the helm of the governing body of world soccer.
andquotHe is not one of the ones arrested. He is not involved at all,andquot FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told The Associated Press. andquotWe are trying to find out more from the police.andquot
Two current FIFA vice presidents were among those indicted, Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo, according to the US Department of Justice. Others indicted include Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Rafael Esquivel, Jose Maria Marin and Nicolas Leoz.
andquotThe indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,andquot Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement. andquotIt 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.andquot
Blatter had been scheduled to attend a meeting of the Confederation of African Football in a different downtown Zurich hotel, but he canceled his appearance.
Blatterand’s only opponent in Fridayand’s presidential election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, said it was andquota sad day for football,andquot but declined to comment further.
The arrests were made at the lakeside Baur au Lac Hotel in downtown Zurich, long favored as a place for senior FIFA officials to stay. It was the stage for intense lobbying for votes ahead of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting decisions in December 2010.
The North American regional body, known as CONCACAF, reported itself to US tax authorities in 2012. Then based in New York, the organization had not paid taxes over several years when its president was Warner and secretary general was Chuck Blazer of the United States.
Warner, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, left soccer in 2011 to avoid FIFA sanctions in a bribery scandal during that yearand’s presidential election. Blazer left in 2013 and has pleaded guilty to charges, the Justice Department said in Wednesdayand’s statement.
Warnerand’s successor as CONCACAF leader and FIFA vice president is Webb, who is from the Cayman Islands and was staying at the Baur au Lac this week.
The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in its statement that U.S. authorities suspect the six arrested officials of having received or paid bribes totaling millions of dollars and that the crimes were agreed to and prepared in the US, and payments carried out via US banks.
andquotThe bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries (FIFA delegates) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations – totaling more than USD 100 million,andquot the FOJ statement said.
A statement in German added that the probe involved tournaments in the United States.
International media gathered at the street entrance of the Baur au Lac in scenes reminiscent of the World Cup votes won by Russia and Qatar more than four years ago.
Then, former President Bill Clinton was inside meeting FIFA voters who later rejected the American bid in favor of Qatar, and Britainand’s Prince William was part of the losing English bid team.
Suspicions of vote-buying and wrongdoing in those bidding contests have dogged FIFA ever since.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman