Now that the dust has settled a little on the FIFA criminal case, I wanted to throw my two cents into the commentary pot. Those who focus on whether the FIFA case is a “corruption case,” “an FCPA case” or some other short-handed description are missing the point.
The FIFA case represents the best that DOJ can do – it was a classic, long-term investigation that is built on a variety of tools that only DOJ can employ. To bring down the whole FIFA criminal conspiracy required DOJ to employ its full arsenal of tactics and strategies.
DOJ assigned significant resources and time to the case. The investigation was built on the typical strategy – building a larger case one brick at a time, with the assistance of cooperating witnesses who have plead guilty. DOJ has used this same strategy to dismantle drug trafficking organizations, the Mob, vicious and violent gangs, and other organized crime operations.
The indictment also reflects the use of DOJ’s full evidentiary arsenal, except perhaps a wiretap, to put together a strong case with insider testimony, financial corroboration of corruption, and recorded meetings with defendants.
The charges themselves include the typical range employed by DOJ in big cases against criminal organizations – at the core is the use of RICO statute, which is a very powerful tool used against criminal organizations who have a long history of criminal activity. Here, FIFA defendants are charged with a criminal conspiracy ranging over nearly 25 years.
RICO allows the government to tell the jury the entire story about a criminal group, from its inception to the very end, with all the twists and turns along the way. You can rest assured that the close out of the case with the arrests resulted in even better evidence being gathered as co-conspirators talk to each other about the demise of their criminal operation. By the time the government has completed its direct case (after months of testimony and evidence), the jury (and the judge) will see the entire picture of a criminal organization.
Besides the overarching RICO conspiracy charge, the government has skillfully employed wire fraud and money laundering charges. These charges carry significant penalties and, in this context, will be relatively easy to prove. Once you show the nature of the criminal organization, the repeated criminal acts, and the greed of the co-conspirators, money laundering and wire fraud are natural and related acts to a criminal enterprise.
The FIFA case also represents further proof of DOJ’s growing international criminal enforcement network. When you consider the countries involved, the evidence collected from various countries, and the coordination needed to carry out the investigation and arrests, DOJ’s ability to bring together the enforcement network is unparalleled.
To underscore the point, DOJ built a coalition of international allies that actively supported the investigation and prosecution to eliminate the scourge of corruption undermining international soccer. FIFA stood out as an international organization brazen in its corrupt ways, riddled with failed attempts to rein in greed and avarice, and ultimately dismantled through traditional criminal enforcement strategies.
As an international effort, DOJ’s prosecution is a testament to DOJ’s long tradition of aggressive crime fighting against large and active criminal organizations.