Fifa has affirmed that the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments will go on as planned in Russia and Qatar respectively and there will not be postponement of Friday’s elective congress.
These follows an early morning raid on a Swiss hotel, during which ‘seven’ Fifa officials were arrested and detained for separate probes by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, just over 48 hours before the 65th Congress at the Hallestadion in Zurich.
Swiss prosecutors have opened legal proceedings “against persons unknown” on suspicion of fraudulent/criminal misconduct and money laundering linked with allocation of the next two World Cup tournaments, while the detained officials are expected to be extradited to the United States of America for debriefing over “allocation of media, marketing and sponsoring rights for football tournaments carried out in the United States and Latin America.”
The U.S. Department of Justice have identified all arrested members as Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and Jose Maria Marin.
Eduardo Li (Costa Rica football federation president. Current Fifa executive committee member-elect, Concacaf executive committee member)
Julio Rocha (Current Fifa development officer. Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president).
Costas Takkas (attaché to the CONCACAF President. Former COFA general secretary)
Eugenio Figueredo (former Conmebol president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president. Current Fifa vice-president and executive committee member).
Rafael Esquivel (current Conmebol executive committee member and Venezuelan FA president)
Jose Maria Marin (current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournament. Former Brazilian FA president).
Swiss authorities have, in the course of their investigation, confiscated electronic data and documents at Fifa head office.
Fifa director of communications and public affairs Walter De Gregorio, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, said the football umbrella body is cooperative of these procedures; in Spite of the fact it has come at a “wrong timing.”
“It is certainly a difficult moment for Fifa,” acknowledges De Gregorio.
“As I said, you don’t believe me but I say again this for Fifa is good. It’s not good in terms of image and reputation but in terms of cleaning up this is good. It is not a nice day, we have other things to do, but the process goes on and we are looking forward to the results. As long as we don’t have complete results it leads to speculation.”
A separate Fifa statement read: “Fifa welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football … 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.”
Fifa had in November filed criminal complaints regarding “possible misconduct” by certain individuals with Swiss authorities. The football governing body “suspects, in isolated cases, (that) international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place.”
Officials from all 209 affiliate members of the federation are gathered in Zurich for the 29 May congress, offering to Swiss authorities and their counterparts from the United States of America, a perfect occasion to pounce on “10 persons who took part in voting on the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as members of the Executive Committee in 2010” and nine Fifa officials and five “corporate executives” who have been indicted for “racketeering conspiracy and corruption” respectively.
Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias SA, a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc (Traffic USA).
Hugo and Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principals of Full Play Group SA, a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
In the meantime, Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, who is seeking for a fifth term at the helm of world’s football, is not involved. Jordanian prince and Fifa vice-president for Asia, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein is seeking to unseat the 79-year-old Swiss football administrator.
Asked if Blatter should resign, De Gregorio replied: “The damaged part are all of us. Football fans for sure but the president is not involved, how can you say he has to step down? He is the president, if he is re-elected then he is the president for the next four years.
“He is focused on the congress. The stress factor is higher today than it was yesterday but he is quite relaxed because he is not involved. All the rest he can accept what will happen. It was Fifa on 18 November that asked the general attorney to open the case.”
However, Friday’s Congress will go on as planned, with De Gregorio saying: “Of course congress will take place, one thing has nothing to do with the other. Congress will be carried out taking into account this current procedure.
“We are of course in very close contact with the attorney general and it is possible that later in the day or tomorrow we can give you an update on the latest situation.”