GODDAMMIT! FIRE UP THE LEE GREENWOOD— THE UNITED STATES JUST TOOK DOWN FIFA, EMBARRASSED PUTIN, AND BROUGHT ALONG THE FREE PRESS TO DOCUMENT THE WHOLE DAMN THING. SOMETIMES I’M PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN, BECAUSE AT LEAST I KNOW I’M FREE.
From The Daily Beast, which will help you wave the flag this morning:
In dawn raids on a five-star hotel in Switzerland on Wednesday, several of the sport’s most powerful executives, including FIFA’s vice president, were placed under arrest. This follows lengthy corruption investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States will ask the Swiss government to extradite the six FIFA executives. Further arrests are expected.
Despite hosting the World Cup in 1994, the U.S. has always been seen as an outsider in a sport that is the undisputed number one crowd pleaser in most other countries. Wednesday’s arrests, however, cast the United States as a central player in a dramatic intervention that has turned the entire soccer world upside down. Billions of dollars in advertising and television rights controlled by FIFA could be at stake, and there is even a chance that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin could face the humiliation of losing the 2018 World Cup. Steamy, tiny, too-rich little Qatar may also be forced to give up its implausible claim on the event in 2022.
What’s more, is that they brought along reporters and photographers from the New York Times to document to whole thing. Top lieutenants, but not President and chief evildoer Sepp Blatter, were detained, peacefully (they were allowed to bring their FIFA logo-bearing luggage), covered in white sheets so as to avoid the invited(!) press, and questioned by Swiss authorities, who are working on that whole extradition-to-the-United-States thing. Officials also raided a CONCACAF office in Miami.
How, on Earth, does the US have jurisdiction anwywhere on Earth? The NYT ‘splains dat:
United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.
Switzerland’s treaty with the United States is unusual in that it gives Swiss authorities the power to refuse extradition for tax crimes, but on matters of general criminal law, the Swiss have agreed to turn people over for prosecution in American courts.
You can see the list of the 14 officials indicted here. As you make your way down, they look increasingly like unsavory creatures far from far-flung galaxies in Star Wars, but especially this guy– Rafael Esquivel, who may harvest baby organs during his leisure time:
But the best part in all of this is that besides taking down top FIFA officials and embarrassing Putin, the United States may wind up landing one of the two World Cups now in limbo. FIFA had been considering the US as a backup if the 2022 World Cup in Qatar got nixed – President Clinton, representing the US, was seated in the second row when the announcement of the winning bid was made in 2010, telling you all you need to know about the shady cats in the first row – and Philadelphia was on the list of potential host cities, though the officials not currently being interrogated say they have no plans to put things up for a re-vote. We’ll see.
In case you’re not aware, FIFA has long been accused of accepting bribes, corruption, money laundering, and other general insidiousness over the years. The definitive guide to their corruption – as is the case with most injustices – is John Oliver’s take on Last Week Tonight last year:
UPDATE: FIFA’s statement is a lesson in spin:
FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football. We understand that today’s actions by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice on behalf of the US authorities and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (initiated by FIFA through the submission of the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process) relate to different matters.
Firstly, the arrest of six individuals this morning in Zurich concerns investigations by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of the State of New York. The Swiss authorities, acting on behalf of their US counterparts, arrested the individuals for activities carried out in relation with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business.
The second instance follows FIFA’s initiative of presenting the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General in November 2014. The authorities are taking the opportunity of the FIFA Congress to interview those FIFA Executive Committee members who are not Swiss residents who voted back in 2010 and are still in office.
Today, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General announced that it has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown in relation to the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process. FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard. As noted by the Swiss authorities, this collection of evidence is being carried out on a cooperative basis.
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.
Like, we are just really thankful that the US is helping us being good stewards of sport!