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Two FIFA vice presidents, 12 others charged in US probe

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New York, May 28 (IANS) The US Justice Department has charged 14 individuals – including two current FIFA vice presidents and seven other world football officials – with offences including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

It also said in a release that the 47-count indictment, unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, is “not the final chapter” in the wide-ranging and ongoing investigation, reports Efe.

The announcement by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, accompanied at a press conference in New York by FBI director James Comey, came on the same day that Swiss authorities arrested seven of the 14 defendants charged in the indictment.

“They used their positions of trust within their respective organizations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the commercial rights to their soccer tournaments,” Lynch said.

Despite the insistence of reporters, however, she refused to discuss possible measures against FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who was not among those indicted and is expected to win re-election for a fifth term on Friday.

The defendants include FIFA vice presidents Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo and Caymanian Jeffrey Webb, who is also president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean association football, known as CONCACAF – as well as the former president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz.

Both Figueredo and Webb were arrested early on Wednesday by Swiss authorities, who acted at the request of the US.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice president and ex-president of CONCACAF, also was among the 14 defendants indicted.

“Most of the schemes alleged in the indictment relate to the solicitation and receipt of bribes and kickbacks by soccer officials from sports marketing executives in connection with the commercialisation of the media and marketing rights associated with various soccer matches and tournaments,” the US Justice Department said.

Four of the defendants are sports marketing executives, while one other defendant allegedly served as a liaison to facilitate illicit payments by sports marketing executives to soccer officials.

“Other alleged schemes relate to the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sponsorship of the Brazilian soccer federation by a major US sportswear company, the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup (South Africa) and the 2011 FIFA presidential election,” the Justice Department said.

The acting US attorney of the Eastern District of New York, Kelly Currie said the indictment as well as the guilty pleas of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants, also unsealed Wednesday, do not mark “the final chapter in our investigation”.

In explaining why the US Justice Department was prosecuting leaders of soccer’s world governing body, Lynch said the defendants and their co-conspirators partially planned their scheme in the US, used the US banking system to pay bribes and “planned to profit from their scheme in large part through promotional efforts directed at the growing US market for soccer”.

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