FIFA Response to Overnight Crackdown on Soccer Corruption


ZURICH (AP) – 1:50 p.m. (1150 GMT, 7:50 a.m. EDT)

FIFA says there will be no re-vote for the 2018 and the 2022 World Cup host nations.

That announcement came Wednesday – the same day that 7 FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich on a U.S. arrest warrant, the FBI raided the headquarters of the soccer body CONCACAF in Miami Beach and Swiss authorities announced a criminal investigation related to the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference in Zurich that "Russia and Qatar will be played."

In November, FIFA gave Swiss judicial authorities a report by Michael Garcia investigating corruption surrounding the selection of Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts. De Gregorio promised Wednesday that the Garcia report will eventually be published to the public, but only after the criminal investigations are resolved.

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1:35 p.m. (1135 GMT, 7:35 a.m. EDT)

Agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service have executed search warrants in a raid at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami Beach.

The raid early Wednesday morning on the organization that regulates soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean came just hours after Swiss authorities arrested seven FIFA officials in Zurich at the request of U.S. authorities.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement Wednesday that a U.S. "indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States."

The agents in Miami carried cardboard boxes, which could be used to hold evidence gathered from the scene, into the building.

Neither the FBI nor the IRS would comment on the U.S. investigation into corruption in soccer. No one answered the phone at CONCACAF’s office in Miami Beach.

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1:15 p.m. (1115 GMT, 7:15 a.m. EDT)

FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio says FIFA President Sepp Blatter "is calm" after the arrests of seven soccer officials in Zurich by Swiss authorities.

U.S. officials issued a warrant for the arrests of nine FIFA officials and Swiss authorities arrested seven of them early Wednesday in Zurich, where hundreds of soccer officials have gathered for the world soccer body’s annual Congress. Blatter was not arrested and is running for a fifth term as president on Friday.

De Gregorio told a hastily called news conference that Blatter "is very calm, he sees what is happening, he is fully cooperating."

The spokesman says "the stress factor is a little bit higher than it was yesterday … but he (Blatter) knows he was not involved."

De Gregorio added that Blatter "is not dancing in his office." He said FIFA’s presidential election – which Blatter is expected to win – will take place as scheduled.

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12:55 p.m. (1055 GMT, 6:55 a.m. EDT)

U.S. authorities say two current FIFA vice presidents are among the seven soccer officials arrested and detained in Zurich by Swiss police at the request of U.S. authorities.

The U.S. Department of Justice says FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay were arrested early Wednesday at the lakeside Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich.

The others arrested included Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil. All seven are connected with the regional soccer confederations of North and South America.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement Wednesday that "the indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States."

She says the corruption "spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks."

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12:35 p.m. (1035 GMT, 6:35 a.m. EDT)

FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio says it’s no surprise that Swiss authorities have made arrests in relation to a corruption probe involving the world soccer body. He says it’s only a surprise that the arrests came Wednesday.

De Gregorio says FIFA itself turned over to Swiss judicial authorities last November the report by investigator Michael Garcia into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. So he said the arrests were "the consequences of what we initiated."

Six soccer officials were arrested early Wednesday in Zurich by Swiss authorities relating to a U.S. corruption probe. Hours later, Swiss federal prosecutors announced they have opened separate criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Dozens of soccer officials are in Switzerland this week for the FIFA congress and presidential election, where FIFA President Sepp Blatter is widely expected to win re-election. Blatter was not among those arrested.

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12:05 p.m. (1005 GMT, 6:05 a.m. EDT)

FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told reporters at a news conference that "FIFA is the damaged party" after two major legal developments erupted early Wednesday in Zurich, home to FIFA, the world soccer body.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not among those arrested and is running for a re-election this week.

De Gregorio says "it is once again FIFA suffering under the circumstances." He insisted that the FIFA Congress, which gathers soccer officials from all over the world, will go ahead as planned.

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