Five current and former members of FIFA’s ruling executive committee were among 16 additional men indicted on corruption charges Thursday as part of U.S. prosecutors’ widening investigation into soccer corruption.
The indictment takes down an entire generation of soccer leaders in South America, a bedrock of FIFA and World Cup history.
“The betrayal of trust set forth here is outrageous,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “The scale of corruption alleged herein is unconscionable.”
Led away by Swiss federal police in a pre-dawn raid at a Zurich hotel were Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, president of the South American confederation, and Alfredo Hawit of Honduras, head of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body. The arrests — at the same hotel where the first raids happened in May — took place came just before FIFA’s executive committee met to approve reform measures.
Ricardo Teixeira, a former Brazilian federation head, was also indicted. He is the former son-in-law of Joao Havelange, who was FIFA’s president from 1974-98. In addition, former CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb and former executive committee member Luis Bedoya were among those whose guilty pleas were unsealed.
Eleven current and former members of FIFA’s executive committee have now been charged in the investigation, which alleges hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. The last three presidents of the regional bodies CONCACAF and CONMEBOL all have been indicted.
“The message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus,” Lynch said.
Fourteen men were charged in May, when four additional guilty pleas were unsealed, with prosecutors alleging bribes involving the media and marketing rights for the Copa America, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and other competitions. Eight more guilty pleas were unsealed Thursday, when the Justice Department announced a 92-count superseding indictment that expands on the earlier charges.
Webb, who has been released on bail and is largely restricted to his home in Georgia, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy. He agreed to forfeit more than $6.7 million.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, elected that week to a fifth term, said June 2 he would leave office when a successor is chosen. Blatter has been suspended by FIFA as part of a separate investigation into a $2 million payment to European soccer head Michel Platini, who hoped to succeed him when FIFA’s 209 member nations vote Feb. 26. Blatter also is under Swiss criminal proceedings.
Blatter and Platini face lifetime bans from soccer at ethics hearings expected this month. Lynch would not respond directly to Blatter’s allegation that the inquiry resulted from U.S. anger at losing to Qatar when the executive committee chose the 2022 World Cup host.