On Wednesday in the early morning hours in Zurich, Switzerland, at a five star hotel, there were six phone calls made by the concierge to six rooms telling the occupants: “Sir,” the concierge said in English, “I’m just calling you to say that we’re going to need you to come to your door and open it for us or we’re going to have to kick it in.” How polite.
The hotel, which overlooks Lake Zurich, provided an unlikely setting for the apprehension of six global soccer executives who were arrested on corruption charges and now face extradition to the United States. The operation took less than two hours and was strikingly peaceful – no handcuffs, no guns drawn. It also involved an unusual use of a bedsheet.
Raids in the United States are typically led by armed SWAT team members wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, but the Swiss took a more subtle approach. Rather than storming into the executives’ rooms and hauling them out in their pajamas, the officers waited for the men to come to the door and then gave them a chance to get dressed and pack their bags.
The officers appeared to lead the officials out one by one, through several exits, including a side door, the hotel’s garage and, in one case, the main entrance.
Thus started the arrests of six global soccer executives on corruption charges. The indictments were brought by the US Justice Department stemming from an FBI and IRS investigation into the business practices of FIFA, the world governing body of the world’s most popular sport. soccer.
The Justice Department, F.B.I. and I.R.S. described soccer’s governing body in terms normally reserved for Mafia families and drug cartels, saying that top officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth. One soccer official took in more than $10 million in bribes, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said.
The schemes involving the fraud included the selection of South Africa as the host of the 2010 World Cup; the 2011 FIFA presidential elections; and several sports-marketing deals. [..]
The Department of Justice indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment also named sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments. [..]
The promise that the investigation would continue raised the specter of more arrests, but officials would not comment on whether they were investigating Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president and the man widely regarded as the most powerful person in sports. One federal law enforcement official said Mr. Blatter’s fate would “depend on where the investigation goes from here.” [..]
United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.
Switzerland’s treaty with the United States is unusual in that it gives Swiss authorities the power to refuse extradition for tax crimes, but on matters of general criminal law, the Swiss have agreed to turn people over for prosecution in American courts.
What Esquire’s Charlie Pierce said:
Here and overseas, the entire corporate universe is shot through with metastatic corruption and crime. It is an essential part of the business model almost everywhere, from Wall Street offices to the pitch at Wembley. FIFA’s corruption is more than an endemic phenomenon. FIFA was simply one corrupt enterprise working with and through hundreds of other corrupt enterprises. There are governments, and there are communications empires, and there are all manner of companies advertising their wares — the “corporate partners” of a claque of brigands. If you did business with the crooks of FIFA, you’re a crook, too. There’s no way to avoid it. All of them are guilty. All of them are responsible. All of them are complicit in the corruption in the spotlight today, and in the death of anonymous workers in Qatar whose names they don’t even know. The whole goddamn corporate universe is begging for a gigantice RICO indictment.
It seems the Justice Department is capable of investigating and obtaining indictments against officials of an organization whose business practices have been described as “byzantine and impenetrable,” why can’t the DOJ do the same for the bankers of JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Citibank, Bank of America, et al? It apparently is not that hard, Loretta.