European football governing body, Uefa, says Friday’s Fifa presidential election should be postponed following the arrest of high-ranking Fifa officials in Zurich today.
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, two days to the 65th Congress at the Hallestadion in Zurich.
European football governing body has not made secret how it plans not to support the re-election of 79-year-old Blatter in recent months. An informal meeting was scheduled ahead of Wednesday’s Europa League final, where they looked into the recent controversy at Fifa.
President of German Football Association, Wolfgang Niersbach, said: “It would be shocking if the grave allegations against FIFA members turn out to be true. What’s happening in Zurich, days ahead of the FIFA congress, is shocking and harmful for the whole of football.”
He added: “We will discuss within UEFA how to act at the upcoming congress in the wake of these incidents.”
U.S. Prosecutors have accused not less than 14 people of accepting bribes and kickbacks worth over $150million (£98million) in an investigation which dates back to 1991.
Swiss authorities have began separate proceedings into suspected cases of fraudulent/criminal misconduct and money laundering linked with allocation of the next two World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar. They confiscated electronic data and documents at Fifa head office shortly after the raid at the Baur au Lac hotel at about 6am.
Former Fifa Vice President, Jack Warner, is accused of taking bribes worth $10million (£6.5million) from the South African government to host the 2010 World Cup. The ex-football administrator from Trinidad and Tobago, who was not among the seven persons arrested at the. five-star hotel in Zurich on Wednesday morning, released a statement denying the allegation, saying: “the actions of Fifa no longer concern me.”
The AP reports that authorities in Trinidad and Tobago have confirmed that arrest warrant has been issued for Warner.
Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, has, at this time, not been indicted. The Swiss is running for a fifth term in office and faces opposition from Jordanian Prince, Ali Bin al-Hussein- a Fifa vice-president for Asia.
Among those arrested is Jeffrey Webb, current Fifa vice-president and head of the Concacaf federation that serves North and Central America whom Blatter has long touted as his possible successor. Others are Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and Jose Maria Marin.
Sports marketing executives Alejandro Burzaco, Aaron Davidson, Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis could also face charges. José Margulies, an intermediary who facilitated illegal payments, will also be quizzed.
Six of the seven men arrested on Wednesday are contesting extradition to the United States, according to Swiss authorities.
US Attorney General Loretta E Lynch said: “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States.”
“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.
“This Department of Justice is determined to end these practices to root out corruption and bring wrongdoers to justice.”
If convicted on racketeering charges, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison.
Fifa bans 11 from football related activities
Meanwhile, FIFA has issued a provisional ban on “11 individuals from carrying out any football-related activities on a national and international level.” The arrested seven headline the list of those suspended by Fifa, as well as former president of CONMEBOL Nicolaz Leoz, ex-US football administrator, Chuck Blazer, who had reportedly provided information to the FBI on irregularities at world football’s governing body, Daryll Warner and dad Jeffery.
Chairman of Fifa’s adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert said in a statement: ““The charges are clearly related to football and are of such a serious nature that it was imperative to take swift and immediate action. The proceedings will follow their course in line with the FIFA Code of Ethics.”
Blatter has also released a statement and below is the full transcript from the Fifa president in response to the corruption probe:
“This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organisation. 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.
“As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.
“While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take. In fact, today’s action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.
“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. Following the events of today, the independent Ethics Committee – which is in the midst of its own proceedings regarding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups — took swift action to provisionally ban those individuals named by the authorities from any football-related activities at the national and international level. These actions are on top of similar steps that FIFA has taken over the past year to exclude any members who violate our own Code of Ethics.
“We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing.”
Officials from all 209 affiliate members of the Fifa are gathered in Zurich for the 29 May congress.