US Attorney General expects more charges in global soccer probe – Politico
The U.S. Justice Department’s criminal probe of corruption in soccer’s international governing body has expanded and more charges are looming, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Monday.
Speaking in Zurich following a meeting with Swiss officials taking an active role in the ongoing inquiry into FIFA, Lynch said the stunning indictment in May of 14 individuals linked to World Cup bids and global soccer promotion was just the beginning.
“Separate and apart from the pending indictment, our investigation remains active and ongoing, and has in fact expanded since May,” Lynch said, according to prepared remarks. “The scope of our investigation is not limited, and we are following the evidence where it leads. I am grateful for the significant cooperation and substantial evidence that we have received from all quarters. Based upon that cooperation and new evidence, we anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities.”
Lynch did not elaborate on which people or organizations are likely to face charges next, but she said the investigation now involves not just prosecutors in Switzerland but several other nations.
“We have also begun coordinating closely with prosecutors and law enforcement officials from a number of other countries as well,” Lynch said. “I have been gratified to see that the response to this problem has not been limited to one country or even one continent. The problem of corruption in soccer is global, and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to support a global response.”
Just a month after she was sworn in earlier this year, Lynch made a dramatic debut on the the international stage by triggering the surprise arrests at a Zurich hotel of seven officials of the Federation Internationale de Football Association and by announcing a sweeping, 47-count indictment charging people connected to global soccer with operating a racketeering conspiracy that shook down sponsors for bribes and kickbacks.
FIFA’s president for nearly two decades, Sepp Blatter, won re-election just two days after the indictment was unveiled in May. However, just three days after his victory, he delivered a speech in which he appeared to resign. Blatter later suggested he might run again for the top post, but FIFA officials later said he had no intent of doing so.
Blatter has not been charged publicly with any crime. However, he has said he is limiting his travel in order to avoid the possibility of being arrested and extradited to the U.S.
Asked specifically Monday if Blatter will face charges, Lynch declined to say.
“I’m not going to comment at this time on people who may or may not be subject to the next round of arrests, and so I’m not able to comment on Mr. Blatter’s travel plans,” Lynch said to laughter from the assembled journalists.
Swiss broadcaster SRF reported Friday that it obtained a contract Blatter signed awarding TV rights for South Africa and Brazil for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup competitions to businessman Jack Warner for a total of $600,000. Firms close to Warner reportedly sold the rights for about $20 million.
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber, who flanked Lynch at the press conference, confirmed that his office recently obtained the contract but he declined to elaborate on its significance to the investigation.
Earlier this year, Lynch sounded reluctant to give advice to FIFA officials about how to reform, but on Monday the U.S. attorney general opened up more on that topic.
“I think they have a lot to consider,” Lynch said. “For individuals who have a choice to return soccer to its old ways of corruption or to move into what we feel is the way soccer should be run, to comport with the integrity of the sport. We hope that they choose the latter path.”
The Justice Department investigation into FIFA is being run out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, N.Y., which Lynch headed before being nominated to the attorney general post last year.
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