- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

About 10 officials of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, will be indicted in the U.S. on Wednesday on corruption charges involving the awarding of the World Cup and marketing and broadcast deals.

The charges target members of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, though longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter is not among those who will be charged.

The New York Times, citing three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the investigation, reported that the corruption charges will include money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud.

Plain-clothes Swiss law enforcement officials were reportedly making arrests early Wednesday at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, where FIFA officials had gathered for their annual meeting.

Swiss officials told The Associated Press that seven arrests already had been made Wednesday morning. Extradition to the U.S. is planned.

Reports on the number of people who will be indicted varied Wednesday morning, with Britain’s Guardian newspaper going as high as 15.

Authorities from the Eastern District of New York are expected to announce the arrests Wednesday morning at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, the New York Daily News reported. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James B. Comey and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will be on hand.

The charges follow an investigation that has been going on since 2011 in which Swiss authorities have worked in conjunction with U.S. law enforcement officials. Ms. Lynch supervised the investigation during her tenure as U.S. attorney in Brooklyn.

Although most or all of the indicted parties are foreign citizens who are being charged for conduct that occurred outside the U.S., the Justice Department will be able to claim jurisdiction based on the use of American banks and the selling of U.S. broadcast rights.

FIFA is scheduled to elect its next president on Friday. Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan is Mr. Blatter’s last remaining challenger after two other candidates withdrew.

FIFA has been repeatedly accused, most recently by the British Parliament, of being a corrupt organization whose top officials regularly hand out the right to host some of the world’s biggest sporting events based on bribes, personal ties and horse trading.

A particular target of criticism — and one that stung the U.S. — has been the simultaneous awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals to Russia and Qatar.

The Qatar decision caused particular head-scratching and eyebrow-raising — FIFA had awarded a tournament customarily held in July in 10 or 12 cities to a tiny (but wealthy) desert mini-state that has some of the world’s hottest weather and has never qualified for the World Cup.

Two members of FIFA’s executive committee resigned from the executive committee even before the bid process was completed after having been caught on tape soliciting bribes for their vote on where to host the tournament.

After the tournament was awarded to Qatar, it was moved to the Arabian Peninsula’s “winter,” though that move will play havoc with the world’s club-soccer schedules. In addition, hundreds of foreign workers have been killed in the crash stadium-building project launched by the Qataris.

A document published by the British Parliament in 2014 said Russia and Qatar had broken FIFA rules by engaging in vote trading and vote buying.

The United States was one of the unsuccessful bidders for the 2022 tournament.

FIFA itself launched an investigation in 2012 after a torrent of criticism over the awarding of the tournament, hiring Michael Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney, to conduct the probe.

However, FIFA never made public the actual probe when it was completed in 2014, instead releasing an executive summary from its ethics chief saying that while ethics codes were violated, the bid process was untainted.

Mr. Garcia took issue with that characterization of his work on the day it was released, saying the summary had “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts.”

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