FIFA corruption probe: LIVE REPORT

19:26 GMT – AFP IS NOW CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT after a dramatic day that started with Swiss police arresting seven FIFA officials in Zurich, just two days before President Sepp Blatter seeks a new term in office.

The detainees include two FIFA vice-presidents. All face deportation to the United States on charges of accepting more than $150 million in bribes.

US authorities said nine football officials are among 14 people facing up to 20 years in jail if found guilty in the long-running corruption case.

Separately, Swiss police seized files and emails at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich as they opened an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio said Blatter is not involved in the investigations and that the presidential vote would be held as planned on Friday.

19:05 GMT – Fresh direction – More from UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, speaking after UEFA’s Executive Committee had held an extaordinary meeting in Warsaw.

“Today’s events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole,” he says.

“UEFA is deeply shocked and saddened by them. These events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA’s culture.

“There is a need for the whole of FIFA to be ‘rebooted’ and for a real reform to be carried out.”


18:30 GMT – Jack Warner – Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner asked for and accepted bribes during the selection processes for the 1998 and 2010 World Cups in France and South Africa, according to allegations.

Warner, 72, who protested his innocence on Facebook, had harnessed his power at the highest levels of football administration as far back as the early 1990s for personal gain, a US indictment said.

Part of the lengthy indictment reads: “Among other things, Warner began to solicit and accept bribes in connection with his official duties, including the selection of the host nation for the World Cups held in 1998 and 2010, which he participated in as a member of the FIFA executive committee.”

18:13 GMT – Blatter statement – “This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organisation,” FIFA President Blatter said in a statement. “We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us.

“Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”

18:10 GMT – Brazil president – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has called for all World Cups and football activities to be investigated.

Speaking to reporters during a trip to Mexico City, Rousseff, whose country hosted last year’s tournament, said: “Investigate all cups, all activities.”



– Blatter reacts –

18:02 GMT – Bans – FIFA has “provisionally” banned 11 officials facing corruption charges in the United States following the US inquiry.

“The charges are clearly related to football and are of such a serious nature that it was imperative to take swift and immediate action,” said Hans-Joachim Eckert, chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the ethics committee.

“The proceedings will follow their course in line with the FIFA Code of Ethics,” Eckert added.

A FIFA statement named the 11 as: Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Jack Warner, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel, Jose Maria Marin, Nicolas Leoz, Chuck Blazer and Daryll Warner.



17:48 GMT – UEFA call – “UEFA believes that the FIFA Congress should be postponed and that the presidential election (due to take place on Friday) should take place in the coming six months,” says UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, speaking after UEFA’s Executive Committee held an extaordinary meeting.


17:26 GMT – Sports minister – Brazil’s Minister of Sport, George Hilton, says the government hopes the probe will “establish the truth” of the graft allegations and see those found guilty of wrongdoing “punished in accordance with the law”.

Speaking in Rio, Hilton insisted there was no evidence of graft relating to last year’s World Cup held in his country under Marin’s CBF stewardship.

“We are completely calm. The government supports the investigations as above all we want clarity and for these investigations to bring solutions,” said Hilton.

17:22 GMT – Maradona – Argentine football great Diego Maradona has applauded the arrest of FIFA officials in an anti-corruption sting and warned that Sepp Blatter, the president of world football’s governing body, may be next.

Maradona said he was “enjoying” the news of the arrest of seven officials, including two FIFA vice-presidents, in a dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich.

“Watch out, Blatter may have to go the United States to explain himself. They’ve been after him for 10 years,” he told Buenos Aires radio station La Red.

17:00 GMT – ‘Soul-searching’ – US Attorney General Lynch said FIFA took bribes during the process that awarded the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, the first time that the tournament was held in Africa.

“Even for this historic event, FIFA executives and others corrupted the process by using bribes to influence the hosting decision,” she said.Lynch would not comment on the upcoming 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which are to be held in Russia and Qatar, but said: “I think FIFA has a lot of soul searching to do.”

Lynch said bribes were also involved in the 2011 FIFA presidential election and that in preparation for the 2016 Copa America being held in the United States for the first time, $110 million in bribes were paid.

16:54 GMT – Offshore accounts – More from the US news conference. Tens of millions of dollars had been discovered hidden away in offshore accounts in Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, said Richard Weber, chief of the US tax agency’s criminal investigation division.

“It was a World Cup of fraud. Today we are showing them the red card,” he said. “It is a great day for the global fight against corruption, money laundering or international tax evasion.”

16:52 GMT – Ministry – Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli has refused to name the sole official not opposing extradition but tells AFP the procedure would take “a few days” once the ministry approved the extradition.

16:38 GMT – Agents – AFP’s Diego Urdaneta reports that a small group of federal law enforcement agents came out of the CONCACAF building in Miami Beach.

Reporters and cameras followed them, but there were no comments. The agents got into their cars and left. Inside the CONCACAF headquarters the probe continues. It has been going on for six hours now.

16:33 GMT – ‘Beyond borders’ – Russia is accusing the United States of illegally applying its legal force “far beyond its borders”.

The Russian foreign ministry called it “another case of illegal exterritorial use of US law” and demanded in a statement that Washington “stops attempts to make justice far beyond its borders.”

16:32 GMT – Romario – Former Brazil star-turned-senator Romario, a vociferous critic of Marin, said: “Many of those who are corrupt and thieves who harm football have been detained.”

Speaking to the senate’s education, culture and sports commission, he added: “Sadly, it was not our police who captured him. A thief has to go to jail. I congratulate the FBI and particularly the Swiss police for their actions.”

Romario said he hoped the latest developments would stymie Blatter’s hopes of re-election.

– Stars speak out –

16:30 GMT – ‘Very bad’ – Marco Polo del Nero, who replaced Marin as CBF president last month, says the widening scandal looks “very bad” for FIFA.

“Logically, this is not good, it is very bad,” del Nero said at his Zurich hotel.

“But first we have to find out what happened, we have to analyse everything,” he told a throng of reporters.

16:28 GMT – Brazil backing – The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) is backing the FIFA probe following the arrest of the officials, including the man who led the CBF until last month — Jose Maria Marin.

“Given the serious events of this morning in Zurich involving leaders and businessmen linked to football, the CBF declares publicly it fully supports each and any investigation,” the Brazilian body said in a statement.

“The organisation will await in a responsible manner its conclusion without prejudice,” the CBF said, as its hierarchy met at its Rio de Janeiro headquarters.


16:08 GMT – ‘Simplified extradition’ – The Swiss justice ministry says “extradition proceedings will be resumed as soon as these requests have been received.”

It says that one of the detained officials said he was ready for “simplified extradition”, adding that if this was approved, he could “be handed over to the US authorities immediately”.

15:55 GMT – Extradition – Six of the seven top FIFA officials arrested in Zurich are opposing their extradition to the United States, the Swiss justice ministry says.

“For those individuals who are contesting extradition, the (justice ministry) will now ask the US to submit formal extradition requests within the 40-day period provided for in the bilateral extradition treaty,” a statement says.


15:51 GMT – No comment – The South African Football Association refused to comment on the US investigation.

“Those are just allegations. No one is being investigated here,” spokesman Dominic Chimhavi told AFP.

15:39 GMT – South Africa – “Around 2004, bidding began for the opportunity to host the 2010 World Cup, which was ultimately awarded to South Africa, the first time the tournament would be held on the African continent,” Lynch tells the news conference.

“But even for this historic event, FIFA executives and others corrupted the process by using bribes to influence the hosting decision.”


– South Africa –

15:28 GMT – Copa America – Citing an example, Lynch says that in preparation for the 2016 Copa America being held in the United States for the first time, $110 million in bribes were paid.

“Our investigation revealed that what should be an expression of international sportsmanship was used as a vehicle in a broader scheme to line executives’ pockets,” Lynch says in New York.

15:26 GMT – Kickbacks – Lynch says the US investigation into marketing kickbacks is separate but parallel to a Swiss investigation into allegations of bribery in the process of awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

“It was a World Cup of fraud. Today we are showing them the red card,” says Richard Weber, chief of the US tax agency’s criminal investigation division.

“Beginning in 1991, two generations of soccer officials,” Lynch says, “used their positions of trust within their respective organisations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the commercial rights to their soccer tournaments. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

15:14 GMT – ‘Systematic wrongdoing’ – The British Daily Telegraph’s football correspondent Henry Winter has harsh words for FIFA.

“US Attorney General shreds #fifa,” he tweets. “Systematic wrongdoing on Blatter’s watch. He may not be ‘guilty’ but in any other industry he’d be history.”

15:07 GMT – Justice – “This Department of Justice is determined to end these practices to root out corruption and bring wrongdoers to justice,” says Lynch.

Kelly Currie, acting US attorney for the eastern district of New York, says Wednesday’s actions mark the beginning rather than the end of the probe.


– Fraud –


14:52 GMT – ‘Enrich themselves’ – US Attorney General Loretta Lynch says officials looked out for themselves.

“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves,” Lynch tells a news conference called to discuss indictments unsealed by US authorities.


– US Attorney General –

14:28 GMT – Jack Warner – Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner says he is innocent of any charges relating to a US Justice Department probe into conspiracy and corruption at FIFA.

“The people of Trinidad and Tobago will know that I quit FIFA and international football more than four years ago and that over the past several years I have recommitted my life to the work of improving the lot of every citizen of every creed and race in this nation,” he says on his Facebook page.

“I have fought fearlessly against all forms of injustice and corruption.

“I have been afforded no due process and I have not even been questioned in this matter. I reiterate that I am innocent of any charges. I have walked away from the politics of world football to immerse myself in the improvement of lives in this country where I shall, God willing, die.

“The actions of FIFA no longer concern me.”

14:26 GMT – ‘Sad day for football’ – The Jordanian prince — who is challenging Blatter for the FIFA presidency — calls the arrests a “sad day for football”.

“FIFA needs leadership that governs, guides and protects our national associations. Leadership that accepts responsibility for its actions and does not pass blame. Leadership that restores confidence in the hundreds of millions of football fans around the world,” he adds

14:25 GMT – End the crisis – Prince Ali, who is challenging Blatter for the FIFA presidency, calls for urgent steps to end “the crisis” at football’s world body.

“We cannot continue with the crisis in FIFA, a crisis that has been ongoing and is not just relevant to the events of today,” the Jordanian prince and FIFA vice president says in a statement

13:46 GMT – Agents – More from AFP’s Diego Urdaneta, who says agents arrived at CONCACAF HQ at about 6:00 am local time and are still inside.

“Three FBI agents arrived an hour ago, descended from a blue van, and entered the building, without comment to the press,” he reports.

“Media can’t see from outside what agents are doing inside.”

13:39 GMT – US raid – US federal agents investigating alleged corruption in world football’s governing bodies have raided the North and Central American association CONCACAF’s headquarters in Miami.

Agents entered the four-storey South Beach office building with boxes to gather evidence.

The current and former presidents of CONCACAF, Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, are among 14 defendants accused of masterminding a 24-year-old multimillion-dollar kickback scheme on football marketing contracts.

13:02 GMT – CONCACAF – AFP’s Diego Urdaneta reports from Miami Beach, where the CONCACAF headquarters are located.

“FBI agents just went in the building, located on a busy street in South Beach (Miami Beach). It’s a small modern building, four stories tall. Media can’t see from outside what they are doing, but there are lots of media outside, TV trucks, etc. It is a sunny, warm day.”

12:23 GMT – Lineker tweet – “There can’t be a more corrupt, deplorable organisation on earth than FIFA,” tweets former England striker Gary Lineker. “The house of cards is falling. Time for change!”

– ‘Deplorable’ –

12:08 GMT – Wake-up call – Swiss police gave a surprise 6:00 am wake-up call to FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, from the Cayman Islands, and six other officials at the luxury Baur au Lac hotel. A US Department of Justice statement said seven people were detained.

Webb is head of the CONCACAF North and Central American confederation and a longstanding ally of Blatter. US police also raided the CONCACAF headquarters in Miami.

Eduardo Li, a FIFA executive committee member from Costa Rica, and Eugenio Figueredo, president of South American football governing body Conmebol from Uruguay, were also among those detained.

The Swiss justice ministry said those detained were suspected of accepting “bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day.”

The seven could agree to be extradited immediately or challenge the move in court. The US Justice Department said the detained officials could face up to 20 years in jail.

12:05 GMT – Blatter tipped – Blatter has been overwhelming favourite to win a fifth term at the head of FIFA but today’s events could swing votes.

His only challenger, Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a FIFA vice president from Jordan, called the arrests “a sad day for football.”

Prince Ali and European federation chiefs say a change of leadership is now urgently needed to save FIFA’s tainted image.

12:02 GMT – Recap – Two days before FIFA chief Sepp Blatter seeks a new term in office, the governing body has been rocked by the dawn detention of several of its leaders and a corruption raid on its HQ.

– A FIFA vice-president is among seven people arrested at the luxury Zurich hotel where they were preparing for a congress starting Thursday. All now face deportation to the United States on charges of accepting more than $100 million in bribes

– US authorities say nine football officials are among 14 people facing charges over the longstanding corruption

– Separately, Swiss police seized files and emails at the FIFA headquarters as part of an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar

– Events so far –

12:01 GMT – ‘Changing quickly’ – More from Greg Dyke: “Clearly things are changing very quickly and our delegation to the FIFA congress in Zurich, which I am leading, will discuss the position and what we should do about it with our colleagues in (European governing body) UEFA when we meet tomorrow (Thursday) morning.”

Dyke, a vocal critic of Blatter, described the day’s events as “very serious for FIFA and its current leadership”.

12:00 GMT – FA reaction – England’s Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has questioned whether FIFA’s presidential election should proceed following the arrests.

“As one of the associations who nominated Prince Ali, it will not surprise you to learn that if the election for president goes ahead, the FA will be voting for him,” Dyke said in a statement on the FA website.

“However, there must be a question mark over whether the election should take place in these circumstances.”

11:52 GMT – UEFA statement – Europe’s top footballing body, UEFA, is “surprised and saddened by the events that occurred this morning in Zurich”, it says in a statement.

UEFA also says it is “waiting for more complete information”, adding that “other statements will be made at the appropriate time”.

11:48 GMT – Blatter background – Sepp Blatter, 79, who is favourite to secure a fifth term as FIFA president on Friday, says his main achievement has been to make football “universal”.

But since the day he took office, accusations of skulduggery have never been far away from FIFA, including over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

Blatter also told UEFA, the European confederation in 2011 that if elected then it would be his last term.

But the FIFA president has never been implicated in wrongdoing.

11:28 GMT – Seventh arrest – Swiss authorities say a seventh top football official has been arrested following a US request.

“In the course of the morning, a further wanted soccer official has been arrested further to a request from the United States,” the attorney-general’s office said, naming a seventh man.

Officials being held are Eugenio Figueredo, FIFA vice president and executive committee member from Uruguay; Costa Rican Eduardo Li, who was supposed to join the FIFA executive committee; and Brazilian soccer federation chief Jose Maria Marin, a member of FIFA’s organising committee for the Olympic football tournaments.

The others are Nicaraguan Julio Rocha, Britons Costas Takkas and Jeffrey Webb, the FIFA vice president and executive committee member, and Rafael Esquivel, president of the Venezuelan Football Federation.

11:12 GMT – Blatter ‘relaxed’ – Just to confirm, the spokesman for Sepp Blatter says the FIFA chief is not involved in the major corruption probes.

Blatter is “relaxed” about the fallout from the controversy, Walter de Gregorio told a press conference at FIFA headquarters.

“The general secretary and the president are not involved in this,” De Gregorio said, referring to Blatter and FIFA secretary general secretary Jerome Valcke.

“He isn’t dancing in his office — (not) this kind of relaxing. He is very very calm, he sees what happens. He is fully cooperative with everybody.”

– Blatter –

11:09 GMT – Guilty plea – The four who have pleaded guilty, according to the US Justice Department, are: Daryll Warner, a former FIFA development officer and son of Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president; Daryan Warner, who holds dual nationality from Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada; Charles Blazer, former CONCACAF general secretary and a former FIFA executive committee member; and Jose Hawilla, owner of the Brazilian sports marketing Traffic Group.

11:05 GMT – US probe – More information from the United States, where the Justice Department has announced conspiracy and corruption charges against nine officials and five business executives.

The Justice Department has also revealed that four individuals and two companies have already pleaded guilty in the case rocking football’s world governing body.

According to the Justice Department, the defendants include Jeffrey Webb, FIFA vice president, executive committee member and CONCACAF president; Eduardo Li, FIFA executive committee member-elect and CONCACAF executive committee member; Julio Rocha, FIFA development officer; Costas Takkas, attache to the CONCACAF president; and Jack Warner, former FIFA vice president and ex-CONCACAF president.

11:04 GMT – FIFA statement – “Today, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General announced that it has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown in relation to the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process.

“FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard. As noted by the Swiss authorities, this collection of evidence is being carried out on a cooperative basis.

“We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken.”

11:03 GMT – UEFA – UEFA chief Michel Platini says in Warsaw the organisation’s executive committee will meet in the afternoon.

“Our executive committee meets this afternoon and tomorrow there is a meeting of all the national associations so there’s nothing else to say until tomorrow morning or this evening,” Platini tells AFP.


– UEFA –

11:00 GMT – Statement – More from the FIFA statement, just released.

“Firstly, the arrest of six individuals this morning in Zurich concerns investigations by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of the State of New York. The Swiss authorities, acting on behalf of their US counterparts, arrested the individuals for activities carried out in relation with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business.

“The second instance follows FIFA’s initiative of presenting the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General in November 2014. The authorities are taking the opportunity of the FIFA Congress to interview those FIFA Executive Committee members who are not Swiss residents who voted back in 2010 and are still in office.”

10:58 GMT – FIFA cooperating – In a press statement, FIFA says it is fully cooperating with authorities.

“FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football,” the statement says. “We understand that today’s actions by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice on behalf of the US authorities and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (initiated by FIFA through the submission of the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process) relate to different matters.”

10:34 GMT – Qatar – Qatar has strongly denied any wrongdoing linked to its bid. But a former FIFA vice president from the Gulf state was banned for life from FIFA because of corruption.

A former US attorney, Michael Garcia, investigated the World Cup bids. He left FIFA because it refused to fully publish his report.

Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, a FIFA vice president, is standing against Blatter in Friday’s election. He called Wednesday’s arrests a “sad day” for football.

He and European federation chiefs say a change of leadership is now urgently needed to save FIFA’s tainted image.

10:33 GMT – Corruption storms – Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998, has continually had to steer the multi-billion dollar world body through corruption storms.

The latest has been over the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

– Controversy –

10:30 GMT – ‘Kick-backs’ – The Swiss justice ministry said only that six football officials had been detained following a request from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

It said they were suspected of accepting “bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day.”

10:29 GMT – Room keys – Swiss police in plain clothes took the room keys from the reception at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and went to the rooms of the six football officials, the New York Times said.

The operation was carried out peacefully, it added.

10:26 GMT – ‘Two generations’ – “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,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in the Justice Department statement about the charges.

10:26 GMT – US indictment – The US Justice Department has unsealed an indictment against nine officials and five executives, charging them with conspiracy and corruption over a 24-year span.

The Department of Justice said it unsealed the indictment as officials raided the CONCACAF soccer organisation headquarters in Miami as part of the case.

– Indictment –

10:23 GMT – Vote – The spokesman says the FIFA vote for a president for the next four years will go ahead as planned in Zurich on Friday.

10:23 GMT – Blatter ‘not involved’ – FIFA president Sepp Blatter and its general secretary Jerome Valcke are not implicated in a corruption probe, the organisation’s spokesman says.

“The general secretary and the president are not involved in this,” spokesman Walter De Gregoria told a hastily arranged press conference.

10:22 GMT – Investigation – The raids were part of an investigation already under way into money laundering and fraud involving FIFA’s awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, a statement said

Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of FIFA, was among those detained in the dawn police raid, according to the New York Times.

10:18 GMT – WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT on the drama unfolding after Swiss police staged a dawn raid on a Zurich hotel and detained six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes.

All six could be extradited to the United States, with the shock arrests coming only two days before FIFA president Sepp Blatter seeks reelection as head of football’s world governing body in a campaign overshadowed by scandal.

Swiss police also raided the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, seizing documents and data.


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