FIFA was plunged into crisis on Wednesday morning after Swiss authorities made early-morning arrests of six football officials and opened separate criminal proceedings over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Officers carried out a dawn raid on the five star Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and arrested a number of officials on corruption charges, including FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands, according to sources close to the world governing body.
It is understood that FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is standing for re-election on Friday, is not among those arrested.
BREAKING: 10 FIFA members who took part in vote for 2018/2022 WC to be questioned by Swiss police.— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) May 27, 2015
In a separate move, officers raided FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, seized electronic data and opened criminal proceedings “against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups,” said a statement from the Swiss attorney general.
The statement says 10 FIFA members who took part in the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar, are to be questioned by Swiss police. Bank documents have also been obtained from financial institutions as part of the investigation.
The statement added: “There are also suspicions of money laundering through Swiss bank accounts. Subsequently to today’s seizure of files, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Swiss Federal Criminal Police will be questioning 10 persons who took part in voting on the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as members of the Executive Committee in 2010. These persons should be questioned as persons providing information. ”
Bombshell: Swiss legal officers raid FIFA office, seize electronic data + open proceedings over World Cup bids: https://t.co/bLgWPS13Rm— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) May 27, 2015
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who is standing against Blatter in Friday’s presidential election, said: “Today is a sad day for football.
“Clearly this is a developing story, the details of which are still emerging. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
Blatter is actively lobbying for Friday’s election to be postponed, according to association sources.
In relation to the six arrests, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said the officials have been detained pending extradition to the United States on suspicion of receiving bribes totalling 100 million US dollars.
As many as 15 officials are under investigation worldwide, including the disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner from Trinidad, according to sources.
A statement from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said: “The six soccer functionaries were arrested today in Zurich by the Zurich Cantonal Police. The FOJ’s arrest warrants were issued further to a request by the US authorities.
“The US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day.
“The bribery suspects – representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms – are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries – delegates of FIFA and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organisations – totalling more than USD 100 million. In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America.
“According to the US request, these crimes were agreed and prepared in the US, and payments were carried out via US banks.”