FIFA Indictment Assessment: “It’s Not Just Sports. It’s Business”


For months, American and Swiss investigators worked in secret to prepare for the raids that would shake the soccer world, reports the Associated Press. They knew that the moment to strike would come when FIFA, the sport’s governing body, held its annual congress in Zurich, gathering all of its top officials, including the main suspects in a far-reaching U.S. corruption probe. Any leak could have given the game away, allowing international soccer officials to scramble out of Switzerland or time to destroy important evidence before authorities could seize it. “It was a months-long planning. It was quite intense to try to find out what is the best moment,” said Andre Marty, spokesman for the Swiss attorney general’s office. “It was exactly [yesterday] that most of the people of interest to the U.S. investigation and to the Swiss investigation are still in Switzerland.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the case involves many multiple inside informants and sophisticated financial tracking techniques first developed for drug transactions. Federal prosecutors in New York City have presented a powerful indictment of top FIFA officials that may reach even higher into the world's most popular sport. The 165-page indictment is remarkably detailed, replete with inside accounts of brazen arrangements to make million-dollar payments in return for officials' votes to hold soccer competitions in a particular city or country, or for approving marketing agreements to broadcast those tournaments. “We used to think of these things as just sports,” said William Barry, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who specializes in cross-border investigations. “But it’s not just sports. It’s business. And now there's an expectation that when allegations of impropriety arise, they are going to be handled independently and with impartiality.”

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