Acting on an indictment by the U.S. Justice Department, Swiss police arrested six top FIFA officials during an overnight raid Wednesday on charges of corruption.
In all, up to 14 FIFA officials are expected to be named in the indictment when it is unsealed in a federal court in New York later Wednesday.
The raids were conducted in Zurich, where members of soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body were gathering for an election Friday that could give its leader Sepp Blatter a fifth term.
Blatter isn’t among those being charged, the officials say. But he was among those investigated, and officials say that part of the probe continues.
Bribes and kickbacks
Authorities didn’t release the names of the officials who were arrested. But the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said the suspects accepted bribes and kickbacks totaling more than $100 million, from the early 1990s until now.
In return, they provided media, marketing and sponsorship rights to soccer matches in Latin America, the Swiss Office of Justice said.
The charges are a result of a three-year FBI investigation and are to be announced by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who oversaw the case in Brooklyn before her appointment to lead the Justice Dept in Washington, and James Comey, the FBI director.
The reason why the United States brought charges against the suspects is because the plots were allegedly hatched on American soil.
“According to U.S. request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the U.S., and payments were carried out via U.S. banks,”
the Swiss Office of Justice said.
A FIFA spokesman refused to comment on the arrests.
“We are seeking clarity on the situation,” the spokesman told CNN.
FIFA has been at the center of corruption investigations for years. But the organization has long dismissed allegations that top officials were on the take.
In December, FIFA’s ethics committee said it was closing its investigation into alleged corruption in the 2018 and 2022 bidding process that awarded the World Cup to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
The group said its investigation found no corruption and it has no reason to reopen the bidding process.
But the FBI wasn’t ready to do the same.
The U.S. investigation accelerated after former U.S. prosecutor, Michael Garcia, who was hired by FIFA to do an internal investigation distanced himself from FIFA’s claims of finding no corruption.
In 2011, the FIFA banned for life Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari member of its top governing body, for ethics violations.
Part of the issue for U.S. authorities is establishing U.S. legal jurisdiction for alleged crimes that largely occurred outside the United States.
However, prosecutors believe the broad reach of U.S. tax and banking regulations aid their ability to bring the charges.
In addition, U.S. authorities claim jurisdiction because the American television market, and billions paid by U.S. networks, is the largest for the World Cup.