Characteristic of the bribe-forvote scandal that consumed Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and other high ranking members of FIFA, the football world was left astounded yesterday after United States prosecutors unveiled charges detailing “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption at the world soccer governing body.
Adamu, it will be recalled, was in 2010 among executive committee members of FIFA accused of collecting bribes in order to influence the choice of host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Following an investigation by FIFA’s Ethics Committee, Adamu received a three-year ban and £6,341 fine while his fellow executive committee member, Reynald Temarii was suspended for a year and fined £3,170 for breaching rules on loyalty and confidentiality.
Five years after that incident, US prosecutors allege that sports marketing executives in the US and South America paid football officials more than $150m in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for lucrative deals to televise and market major tournaments.
Seven FIFA officials, including two vice-presidents, were arrested by Swiss police on US warrants in an early morning raid on the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich.
Seven other FIFA officials and sports marketing executives were also indicted.
The bombshell comes just two days before FIFA’s ruling executive was due to meet to elect a president, with the current head Sepp Blatter, one of the most powerful figures in world sport, expected to win a fifth term.
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, who is running against Blatter, said the arrests marked a “sad day for football”.
The US Department of Justice said the 14 defendants had been charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, claiming they had all participated in a “24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”.
The defendants include some of the biggest names in FIFA, such as Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the football association that represents North and Central American and Caribbean nations.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deeprooted both abroad and here in the United States,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
“It 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.” Ms Lynch added there could be more to come.
“Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.” FIFA, under the leadership of Blatter, has long been dogged by allegations of corruption, especially over its controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country with little tradition of football and where summer temperatures can exceed 50C.