Swiss authorities arrested fourteen people—including a number of top FIFA officials—in Zurich on Wednesday on corruption charges involving the international soccer governing association. Twelve of those arrested are from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The U.S. Justice Department in New York issued the charges, which included accusations of money laundering, wire fraud and racketeering. Those indicted—including Jeffrey Webb, who is president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONACAF)—have been accused of receiving bribes totaling more than $150 million over the past 20 years to determine where matches would be held and who would televise games, among other decisions. All FIFA officials arrested in Zurich are resisting extradition to the United States.
Following the arrests, a second, separate investigation was opened by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups scheduled to take place in Russia and Qatar.
Latin American football fans and soccer stars like Argentina’s Diego Maradona and Brazil’s Romario have publicly welcomed the corruption charges. While the arrests could potentially affect the Copa América tournament in Latin America, set to begin on June 11 in Chile, so far the tournament is set to continue.
President of FIFA Sepp Blatter, who is up for re-election to a fifth term on Friday and has resisted calls to step down, was not among those charged. FIFA issued a statement supporting the investigation and “welcoming actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football.”
Read more about FIFA in Americas Quarterly Hard Talk: Does FIFA’s corruption hurt the beautiful game?