The seven FIFA officials arrested Wednesday in an investigation into the organization’s governing body have corrupted the international game, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.
“They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves,” Lynch said at a news conference. “All of these defendants abused the U.S. financial system and violated U.S. law, and we intend to hold them accountable.”
FIFA was rocked Wednesday by the massive U.S. federal corruption indictment against current and former top officials as well as the announcement of a separate investigation by Swiss authorities into allegations connected to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Authorities arrested seven FIFA officials Wednesday at a luxury Zurich hotel, where they were staying for the organization’s annual meeting.
The seven face extradition to the United States. Later Wednesday, the Swiss Justice Ministry said six of the seven were fighting extradition.
The Justice Department said another four individuals have already pleaded guilty in the case.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter is not involved in either investigation. Lynch told reporters the U.S. was not charging Blatter “at this time.” She said the investigation is ongoing and they are seeking additional defendants.
Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term, has led the multibillion-dollar organization for 17 years and faces a re-election vote Friday.
He released a statement Wednesday, saying: “This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organization. We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us.
“As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the U.S. and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football,” the statement said.
Blatter’s only challenger, Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, released a statement Wednesday saying it was “a sad day for football.”
The U.S. indictment includes 47 counts against nine soccer officials and five sports media and promotions executives, covering charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, in a scheme that prosecutors said involved sports media executives paying or agreeing to pay more than $150 million in exchange for marketing rights to tournaments