US charges 16 additional FIFA officials with corruption

Washington, Dec 4 (IANS) Sixteen more officials were charged by the United States authorities investigating corruption at world football’s governing body FIFA on Friday.

The new indictment came hours after the arrest of two FIFA vice-presidents in Zurich on Thursday. Vice-presidents Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout were arrested at Baur au Lac hotel on suspicion that they had accepted around a million dollars in bribes.

Several other top officials, including two other vice-presidents, were arrested at the same Zurich hotel at the request of US authorities in May. At present, a two-day meeting of FIFA’s executive committee is taking place in Zurich to vote on reforms.

Former Brazil football federation chief Ricardo Teixeira was among those accused of being involved in criminal schemes involving well over $200 million in bribes and kickbacks in the fresh charges.

“A 92-count superseding indictment was unsealed earlier today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging an additional 16 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with their participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer,” a US Department of Justice statement said on Friday.

The charges were announced by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

“The new charges unsealed today bring the total number of individuals and entities charged to date to 41. Of those, 12 individuals and two sports marketing companies have already been convicted as a result of the ongoing investigation. The convicted defendants have agreed to pay more than $190 million in forfeiture,” Lynch said on Friday.

“In addition, more than $100 million has been restrained in the United States and abroad in connection with the alleged criminal activity. The United States has issued mutual legal assistance requests seeking the restraint of assets located in 13 countries around the world.”

“The Department of Justice is committed to ending the rampant corruption we have alleged amidst the leadership of international soccer – not only because of the scale of the schemes, or the brazenness and breadth of the operation required to sustain such corruption, but also because of the affront to international principles that this behaviour represents,” added Lynch.

“The message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus.”

FIFA said on Friday they will co-operate with the investigations in every step.

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