Fifa was plunged into turmoil on Wednesday after US prosecutors unveiled charges detailing “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption at world football’s governing body.
● US indicts nine Fifa officials and five business people on corruption charges linked to footballing activities in North and Central America and the Caribbean
● Four other people and two companies plead guilty to the charges
● Swiss separately open criminal proceedings into alleged graft linked to bidding process for hosting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Fifa is the injured party in the Swiss probe not the defendant
● Fifa insists there is no need to reopen the World Cup bidding process
● Friday’s Fifa presidential election, in which incumbent Sepp Blatter is running for a fifth term, will take place as planned, football’s governing body says
Swiss prosecutors also opened criminal proceedings in connection with the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, to be held in Russia and Qatar.
The US charges allege that sports marketing executives in the US and South America paid football officials more than $150m in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for lucrative deals to televise and market major tournaments.
Seven Fifa officials, including two vice-presidents, were arrested by Swiss police on US warrants in an early morning raid on the five-star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich. Seven other Fifa officials and sports marketing executives were also indicted.
The bombshell comes just two days before Fifa’s ruling executive was due to meet to elect a president, with the current head Sepp Blatter, one of the most powerful figures in world sport, expected to win a fifth term.
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, who is running against Mr Blatter, said the arrests marked a “sad day for football”.
The US Department of Justice said the 14 defendants had been charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, claiming they had all participated in a “24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”.
Those charged included nine of Fifa’s top officials, though Mr Blatter was not among them.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “It 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.”
Ms Lynch added there could be more to come. “Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”
The defendants include some of the biggest names in Fifa, such as Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, the current and former presidents of Concacaf, the football association that represents North and Central American and Caribbean nations.
The arrest of high-ranking Fifa officials in connection with alleged corruption at world football’s governing body has blown wide open the World Cup bidding affair more than four years after the claims of bribery first emerged.
The DoJ said four individuals — including Mr Warner’s sons Daryll and Daryan — and two companies had pleaded guilty in the case. Their guilty pleas were unsealed on Wednesday morning.
The Swiss criminal probe into the 2018 and 2022 bids relates to charges of criminal mismanagement and money-laundering, the Swiss attorney-general’s office said, and 10 people are being questioned in relation to the investigation.
Fifa is not the target of the probe. Prosecutors said the organisation had filed criminal charges last November to the Swiss authorities, so Fifa was the “injured party”.
Electronic data and documents were taken from the Fifa headquarters in Zurich in connection with the probe.
At a news conference on Wednesday morning in Zurich, a Fifa spokesman presented the Swiss probe as a chance to rehabilitate the organisation.
“This is not good in terms of image or reputation but in terms of cleaning up everything we did over the past four years, this is good,” Walter De Gregorio, told reporters.
Fourteen men have been indicted by US authorities investigating alleged corruption at the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the governing body of world football. Here are biographies of some of the key players:
He said that, as of Wednesday, the 2018 World Cup would still be played in Russia and the 2022 tournament in Qatar. He added that Mr Blatter, who has run Fifa for 17 years, was focused on Friday’s election, which would proceed as planned. “He is not dancing in his office. He is just very calm,” he said.
Fifa has long been under fire over the decision to award Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The organisation has faced allegations of impropriety around the bidding process, fuelled by Qatar’s apparent unsuitability to host a summer football tournament. Temperatures in the Gulf nation can exceed 50C.
One of those who pleaded guilty in the US case is Charles Blazer, 70, the former general secretary of Concacaf and a former Fifa executive committee member.
Another defendant who pleaded guilty is Jose Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate. He agreed to forfeit over $151m as part of his plea. Mr Blazer forfeited over $1.9m, and agreed to pay a second amount to be determined when he is sentenced.
Facing intense pressure over the bidding process to award the World Cups to Russia and Qatar, Fifa in 2012 hired Michael Garcia, former attorney for the Southern District of New York and ex-Interpol vice-president, to lead a wide-ranging corruption investigation.
A lawyer best known for probing corruption in the oil-for-food programme for the Bush administration and prosecuting Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor, Mr Garcia seemed the ideal candidate to get to the bottom of the allegations swirling around Fifa.
Mr Garcia compiled a 430-page report over two years. But when, at the end of 2014, Fifa published a 42-page summary, he disowned it. The organisation refused to publish the report in full, claiming it could not do so for legal reasons. It filed its legal complaint alleging corruption to the Swiss authorities five days later.
Mr Garcia quit shortly afterwards, accusing Fifa of “lack of leadership” and questioning whether it was capable of changing its culture.