The DOJ on May 27 unveiled indictments in one of the most sprawling, long-running alleged corruption rings in recent decades, charging nine executives of FIFA or related soccer governing bodies, as well as five sports marketing or broadcast executives, with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. The defendants were charged with offering and accepting over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks over a 24-year period related to the media and marketing rights for soccer tournaments. In addition, the DOJ unsealed guilty pleas previously entered by four individual and two corporate defendants.
Seven of the defendants were arrested in Switzerland as a result of U.S. arrest warrants, pending extradition, continuing the trend of international cooperation between U.S. and foreign anti-corruption enforcement agencies. Continuing a different trend, one of the individuals who pleaded guilty was a former FIFA executive who acted as an informer for the DOJ, including by taping key conversations.
While the indictment mainly concerned media and marketing rights, at least one reference was made to alleged bribes related to voting for World Cup host countries, and the Swiss government announced an inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Additional charges appear likely to be brought in the future, whether by the U.S. or other jurisdictions. The U.S.’s jurisdiction to bring the charges is also likely to be challenged.