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FIFA officials arrested on U.S. corruption charges

Story highlights

  • Prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 14 people
  • Blatter isn’t among those being charged
  • Part of the issue for U.S. authorities is establishing U.S. legal jurisdiction

Washington (CNN)Latest developments:

5:56 a.m. ET: The FIFA officials who have been arrested will not automatically be suspended from their positions, FIFA Director of Communications and Public Affairs Walter De Gregorio said Wednesday.

5:37 a.m. ET: No one at FIFA, including Sepp Blatter, knew that Swiss investigators would raid the soccer body’s headquarters on Wednesday morning, De Gregorio said.

5:30 a.m. ET: The 2018 World Cup will be played in Russia and 2022 in Qatar, De Gregorio said. in response to a question about whether a Swiss corruption probe will affect the global sports contests.

5:26 a.m. ET: : “Of course” the FIFA Congress scheduled for Friday will take place as planned, De Gregorio said.

    5:13 a.m. ET: Swiss authorities have opened a separate criminal investigation into FIFA’s operations, this one pertaining to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. FIFA awarded Russia and Qatar the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, respectively – decisions that have come under heavy criticism and scrutiny.

    Full story:

    FIFA, the powerful and polarizing governing body for soccer, came under prosecutorial assault on two fronts Wednesday.

    Acting on an indictment by the U.S. Justice Department, Swiss police arrested several top FIFA officials, including two vice presidents, during an overnight raid in Zurich on charges of corruption Wednesday.

    The U.S. investigation targets alleged wrongdoing that spans 24 years. U.S. prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 14 people, on charges ranging from money laundering to fraud and racketeering. They include FIFA officials who took bribes totaling more than $150 million and in return provided “lucrative media and marketing rights” to soccer tournaments as kickbacks.

    A few hours later, Swiss authorities said they have opened a separate criminal investigation into FIFA’s operations, this one pertaining to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, which went to Russia and Qatar respectively. Ten people are being questioned.

    The criminal proceedings come as members of soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body gathered for an election Friday that could give its leader Sepp Blatter a fifth term.

    Blatter isn’t among those being charged. But he was among those investigated, and officials say that part of the probe continues.

    The election will go on as planned, FIFA said — as will the games in Russia and Qatar.

    “The timing may not obviously be the best, but FIFA welcomes the process,” FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio told reporters. He acknowleged the investigations but didn’t comment on them.

    THE U.S. INVESTIGATION

    The indictment, said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States.

    “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.”

    Qatar 2022 World Cup: the most controversial ever?
    Qatar 2022 World Cup: the most controversial ever?

    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions 10 photos
    The most controversial World Cup ever just got a whole lot more controversial...
    The most controversial World Cup ever just got a whole lot more controversial...
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    The most controversial World Cup ever just got a whole lot more controversial…
    Hide Caption
    1 of 10
    When Manuel Neuer lifted the World Cup trophy after helping Germany win the 2014 final he did so in the month of July. But when the 2022 World Cup final is staged it's likely the final will take place in December.
    When Manuel Neuer lifted the World Cup trophy after helping Germany win the 2014 final he did so in the month of July. But when the 2022 World Cup final is staged it's likely the final will take place in December.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    When Manuel Neuer lifted the World Cup trophy after helping Germany win the 2014 final he did so in the month of July. But when the 2022 World Cup final is staged it’s likely the final will take place in December.
    Hide Caption
    2 of 10
    English Premier League boss Richard Scudamore isn't very happy over the proposed rescheduling of the 2022 World Cup. "Very disappointed that's the word, I think, on behalf of the all the European leagues and particularly the European clubs who provide most of the players for this World Cup," said Scudamore in a statement.
    English Premier League boss Richard Scudamore isn't very happy over the proposed rescheduling of the 2022 World Cup. "Very disappointed that's the word, I think, on behalf of the all the European leagues and particularly the European clubs who provide most of the players for this World Cup," said Scudamore in a statement.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    English Premier League boss Richard Scudamore isn’t very happy over the proposed rescheduling of the 2022 World Cup. “Very disappointed that’s the word, I think, on behalf of the all the European leagues and particularly the European clubs who provide most of the players for this World Cup,” said Scudamore in a statement.
    Hide Caption
    3 of 10
    A World Cup tournament in November and December presents particular problems for the English Premier League because, unlike Germany, France, Italy and Spain it does not have a winter break.
    A World Cup tournament in November and December presents particular problems for the English Premier League because, unlike Germany, France, Italy and Spain it does not have a winter break.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    A World Cup tournament in November and December presents particular problems for the English Premier League because, unlike Germany, France, Italy and Spain it does not have a winter break.
    Hide Caption
    4 of 10
    A "winter" World Cup will create a fixture headache for Europe's major tournaments -- the Champions League and the Europa League -- which stages group games in those winter months.
    A "winter" World Cup will create a fixture headache for Europe's major tournaments -- the Champions League and the Europa League -- which stages group games in those winter months.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    A “winter” World Cup will create a fixture headache for Europe’s major tournaments — the Champions League and the Europa League — which stages group games in those winter months.
    Hide Caption
    5 of 10
    However ,European governing body UEFA, whose president is Michel Platini, issued a statement supporting the FIFA task force's recommendations.
    However ,European governing body UEFA, whose president is Michel Platini, issued a statement supporting the FIFA task force's recommendations.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    However ,European governing body UEFA, whose president is Michel Platini, issued a statement supporting the FIFA task force’s recommendations.
    Hide Caption
    6 of 10
    Players union FIFPro said a switch to the winter months is the only viable solution to protect the health and safety of the players who will be competing at the 2022 World Cup.
    Players union FIFPro said a switch to the winter months is the only viable solution to protect the health and safety of the players who will be competing at the 2022 World Cup.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    Players union FIFPro said a switch to the winter months is the only viable solution to protect the health and safety of the players who will be competing at the 2022 World Cup.
    Hide Caption
    7 of 10
    But a World Cup in November and December is good news for the NFL as it now won't clash with the Super Bowl. This year's final was staged on February 1.
    But a World Cup in November and December is good news for the NFL as it now won't clash with the Super Bowl. This year's final was staged on February 1.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    But a World Cup in November and December is good news for the NFL as it now won’t clash with the Super Bowl. This year’s final was staged on February 1.
    Hide Caption
    8 of 10
    FIFA told CNN that the 2022 World Cup final would not be held on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
    FIFA told CNN that the 2022 World Cup final would not be held on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    FIFA told CNN that the 2022 World Cup final would not be held on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
    Hide Caption
    9 of 10
    A final decision on when the tournament will be staged will be made at a meeting of FIFA's executive committee between March 18 and 19.
    A final decision on when the tournament will be staged will be made at a meeting of FIFA's executive committee between March 18 and 19.
    Qatar 2022: The unaswered questions10 photos
    A final decision on when the tournament will be staged will be made at a meeting of FIFA’s executive committee between March 18 and 19.
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    10 of 10
    world cup trophyneuer lifts world cup trophy germanypremier league trophy teaseliverpool sterlingchampions league trophygetty wc michel platinimessi dribble argentina world cup 201402 super bowl 020203 santa 122214Qatar stadium
    EXPAND GALLERY

    Why is the U.S. bringing down the hammer on FIFA?

    One of the highest ranking official charged in the U.S. is Jeffrey Webb, a FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF, the FIFA-affiliated governing body for North America and the Caribbean.

    Other officials include: Jack Warner, former FIFA vice president and executive committee member; Eugenio Figueredo, FIFA vice president and executive committee member; and Nicolás Leoz, former FIFA executive committee member.

    Several sports-marketing executives are also charged.

    The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said the suspects accepted bribes and kickbacks totaling more than $150 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.

    FIFA president Sepp Blatter's 2011 remarks on racism in football -- that on-pitch abuse can be solved with a handshake -- were just one of a series of controversial quotes to be attributed to the head of world soccer.
    FIFA president Sepp Blatter's 2011 remarks on racism in football -- that on-pitch abuse can be solved with a handshake -- were just one of a series of controversial quotes to be attributed to the head of world soccer.

    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader 12 photos
    FIFA president Sepp Blatter's 2011 remarks on racism in football -- that on-pitch abuse can be solved with a handshake -- were just one of a series of controversial quotes to be attributed to the head of world soccer.
    FIFA president Sepp Blatter's 2011 remarks on racism in football -- that on-pitch abuse can be solved with a handshake -- were just one of a series of controversial quotes to be attributed to the head of world soccer.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    A controversial leaderFIFA president Sepp Blatter’s 2011 remarks on racism in football — that on-pitch abuse can be solved with a handshake — were just one of a series of controversial quotes to be attributed to the head of world soccer.
    Hide Caption
    1 of 12
    In 2004, Blatter -- seen here with Brazil star Marta -- angered female footballers with his suggestion for how the women's game could be made more appealing. "They could, for example, have tighter shorts," said the Swiss. "Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball."
    In 2004, Blatter -- seen here with Brazil star Marta -- angered female footballers with his suggestion for how the women's game could be made more appealing. "They could, for example, have tighter shorts," said the Swiss. "Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball."
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Tighter shorts for women?In 2004, Blatter — seen here with Brazil star Marta — angered female footballers with his suggestion for how the women’s game could be made more appealing. “They could, for example, have tighter shorts,” said the Swiss. “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball.”
    Hide Caption
    2 of 12
    In 2010, when England captain John Terry, who is married, was reported to have slept with the partner of his former Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge, Blatter responded: "If this had happened in, let's say, Latin countries then I think he would have been applauded."
    In 2010, when England captain John Terry, who is married, was reported to have slept with the partner of his former Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge, Blatter responded: "If this had happened in, let's say, Latin countries then I think he would have been applauded."
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Applauding infidelityIn 2010, when England captain John Terry, who is married, was reported to have slept with the partner of his former Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge, Blatter responded: “If this had happened in, let’s say, Latin countries then I think he would have been applauded.”
    Hide Caption
    3 of 12
    In 2008 Blatter was ridiculed after defending the desire of Manchester United's highly-paid star Cristiano Ronaldo to join Real Madrid. He said: "I think in football there's too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere." In 2013 he had to apologize to Ronaldo after a bizarre impersonation of the Madrid star.
    In 2008 Blatter was ridiculed after defending the desire of Manchester United's highly-paid star Cristiano Ronaldo to join Real Madrid. He said: "I think in football there's too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere." In 2013 he had to apologize to Ronaldo after a bizarre impersonation of the Madrid star.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Football slavery?In 2008 Blatter was ridiculed after defending the desire of Manchester United’s highly-paid star Cristiano Ronaldo to join Real Madrid. He said: “I think in football there’s too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere.” In 2013 he had to apologize to Ronaldo after a bizarre impersonation of the Madrid star.
    Hide Caption
    4 of 12
    Blatter performed a U-turn on the use of goal-line technology and apologized to the English Football Association after an incorrect decision during the 2010 World Cup. Despite replays showing a shot from England's Frank Lampard had clearly crossed the line in the last-16 clash with Germany, the goal was not awarded.
    Blatter performed a U-turn on the use of goal-line technology and apologized to the English Football Association after an incorrect decision during the 2010 World Cup. Despite replays showing a shot from England's Frank Lampard had clearly crossed the line in the last-16 clash with Germany, the goal was not awarded.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Goal-line technology U-turnBlatter performed a U-turn on the use of goal-line technology and apologized to the English Football Association after an incorrect decision during the 2010 World Cup. Despite replays showing a shot from England’s Frank Lampard had clearly crossed the line in the last-16 clash with Germany, the goal was not awarded.
    Hide Caption
    5 of 12
    Blatter had earlier refused to take action when Thierry Henry's blatant handball denied the Republic of Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup finals. Even the France striker admitted the fairest solution was to replay the playoff match.
    Blatter had earlier refused to take action when Thierry Henry's blatant handball denied the Republic of Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup finals. Even the France striker admitted the fairest solution was to replay the playoff match.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Excusez-moi?Blatter had earlier refused to take action when Thierry Henry’s blatant handball denied the Republic of Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup finals. Even the France striker admitted the fairest solution was to replay the playoff match.
    Hide Caption
    6 of 12
    In December 2010, Blatter was heavily criticized for suggesting gay football fans should "refrain from sexual activity" if they wished to attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal. Blatter later apologized and said it had not been his intention to offend or discriminate.
    In December 2010, Blatter was heavily criticized for suggesting gay football fans should "refrain from sexual activity" if they wished to attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal. Blatter later apologized and said it had not been his intention to offend or discriminate.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    “Refrain from sexual activity”In December 2010, Blatter was heavily criticized for suggesting gay football fans should “refrain from sexual activity” if they wished to attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal. Blatter later apologized and said it had not been his intention to offend or discriminate.
    Hide Caption
    7 of 12
    Blatter clashed with fellow members of FIFA's executive committee when he suggested the 2022 FIFA World Cup could be played in January to avoid high temperatures in Qatar. He said the move would "protect the players and also the spectators." Qatar flatly rejected Blatter's suggestion at the time, but FIFA is now reviewing whether to adopt it.
    Blatter clashed with fellow members of FIFA's executive committee when he suggested the 2022 FIFA World Cup could be played in January to avoid high temperatures in Qatar. He said the move would "protect the players and also the spectators." Qatar flatly rejected Blatter's suggestion at the time, but FIFA is now reviewing whether to adopt it.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Winter World Cup?Blatter clashed with fellow members of FIFA’s executive committee when he suggested the 2022 FIFA World Cup could be played in January to avoid high temperatures in Qatar. He said the move would “protect the players and also the spectators.” Qatar flatly rejected Blatter’s suggestion at the time, but FIFA is now reviewing whether to adopt it.
    Hide Caption
    8 of 12
    In December 2010 Blatter insisted that FIFA was "not corrupt ... there are no rotten eggs" despite two of his executive committee members -- Amos Adamu, pictured, and Reynald Temarii -- being suspended for accepting bribes in the lead-up to the vote for awarding hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. He called England "bad losers" after losing out to Russia.
    In December 2010 Blatter insisted that FIFA was "not corrupt ... there are no rotten eggs" despite two of his executive committee members -- Amos Adamu, pictured, and Reynald Temarii -- being suspended for accepting bribes in the lead-up to the vote for awarding hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. He called England "bad losers" after losing out to Russia.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Rotten eggs?In December 2010 Blatter insisted that FIFA was “not corrupt … there are no rotten eggs” despite two of his executive committee members — Amos Adamu, pictured, and Reynald Temarii — being suspended for accepting bribes in the lead-up to the vote for awarding hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. He called England “bad losers” after losing out to Russia.
    Hide Caption
    9 of 12
    Blatter stood unopposed for re-election in July after his former ally Mohamed bin Hammam quit the race days before the ballot after being accused of offering cash for votes. The Qatari, a top FIFA official, has been banned from football.
    Blatter stood unopposed for re-election in July after his former ally Mohamed bin Hammam quit the race days before the ballot after being accused of offering cash for votes. The Qatari, a top FIFA official, has been banned from football.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Best of enemies?Blatter stood unopposed for re-election in July after his former ally Mohamed bin Hammam quit the race days before the ballot after being accused of offering cash for votes. The Qatari, a top FIFA official, has been banned from football.
    Hide Caption
    10 of 12
    Blatter faced a criminal investigation after winning the 2002 FIFA presidential election, being accused of financial mismanagement by 11 former members of the ruling body's executive committee, including his 1998 election rival Lennart Johansson, right. However, prosecutors dropped the case due to a lack of evidence.
    Blatter faced a criminal investigation after winning the 2002 FIFA presidential election, being accused of financial mismanagement by 11 former members of the ruling body's executive committee, including his 1998 election rival Lennart Johansson, right. However, prosecutors dropped the case due to a lack of evidence.
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    Charges droppedBlatter faced a criminal investigation after winning the 2002 FIFA presidential election, being accused of financial mismanagement by 11 former members of the ruling body’s executive committee, including his 1998 election rival Lennart Johansson, right. However, prosecutors dropped the case due to a lack of evidence.
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    11 of 12
    In January 2013, AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng led his team off the pitch after being subjected to racist chanting. His actions were hailed across the world. But Blatter was more cautious about the issue, refusing to support the move. "I don't think you can run away, because eventually you can run away if you lose a match," he said in an interview with a newspaper in the UAE. "This issue is a very touchy subject, but I repeat there is zero tolerance of racism in the stadium; we have to go against that." Others, like AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, have disagreed with him. "I am of the opposite view (to Blatter)," said Berlusconi. "I thanked and congratulated my players for their decision to leave the field."
    In January 2013, AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng led his team off the pitch after being subjected to racist chanting. His actions were hailed across the world. But Blatter was more cautious about the issue, refusing to support the move. "I don't think you can run away, because eventually you can run away if you lose a match," he said in an interview with a newspaper in the UAE. "This issue is a very touchy subject, but I repeat there is zero tolerance of racism in the stadium; we have to go against that." Others, like AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, have disagreed with him. "I am of the opposite view (to Blatter)," said Berlusconi. "I thanked and congratulated my players for their decision to leave the field."
    Sepp Blatter: A controversial leader12 photos
    We need to talk about KevinIn January 2013, AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng led his team off the pitch after being subjected to racist chanting. His actions were hailed across the world. But Blatter was more cautious about the issue, refusing to support the move. “I don’t think you can run away, because eventually you can run away if you lose a match,” he said in an interview with a newspaper in the UAE. “This issue is a very touchy subject, but I repeat there is zero tolerance of racism in the stadium; we have to go against that.” Others, like AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, have disagreed with him. “I am of the opposite view (to Blatter),” said Berlusconi. “I thanked and congratulated my players for their decision to leave the field.”
    Hide Caption
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    Blatter racismblatter marta womens footballjohn terry wayne bridgeblatter ronaldoEngland Germany Lampard 2010thierry henry sorryblatter qatar gayblatter winter world cupamos adamufootball blatter bin hammamfootball blatter johanssonblatter boateng racism row
    EXPAND GALLERY

    The charges are a result of a three-year FBI investigation. In addition to the 14 who have been charged, four others have already pleaded guilty: four former FIFA officials and a sports marketing executive.

    Lynch has scheduled a news conference for 10:30 a.m. in New York.

    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.

    THE SWISS INVESTIGATION

    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. Criticism immediately followed. There were allegations of corruption in the bidding process. Qatar’s oppressive heat also drew ridicule as did its labor rights record.

    FIFA said its investigation found no corruption and it has no reason to reopen the bidding process.

    In 2011, the FIFA banned for life Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari member of its top governing body, for ethics violations.

    On Wednesday, Swiss authorities said have opened a criminal investigation into FIFA’s operations pertaining to the 2018 and 2022 bids.

    The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland said it is looking into criminal mismanagement and money laundering.

    “The files seized today and the collected bank documents will serve criminal proceedings both in Switzerland and abroad,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said.

    According to the statement, Swiss Federal Criminal Police will be questioning 10 people who took part in the voting when the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded.

    JURISDICTION ISSUES

    Swiss officials say they are working closely with U.S. authorities, but the investigations are separate ones.

    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.

    “Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie. “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start.

    “Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”

    True to their words, authorities were executing a search warrant at the CONCACAF headquarters in Miami on Wednesday morning.

    CNN’s Harry Reekie in Zurich, Switzerland, contributed to this report.

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