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FIFA in Crisis: Scandal in Brazil Circa 2015

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            The U.S. Department of Justice had to indict several of FIFA’s top executive officials after football’s world governing body has been consumed by claims of widespread corruption since the summer of 2015. The scandal has now claimed the careers of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA’s President Michel Platini, after they were both banned for eight years from all football related activities by FIFA’s ethics committee. The scandal erupted in May, with a raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich and the arrest of seven FIFA executives. Following a major investigation conducted by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates were indicted on charges of systematic and deep-rooted corruption that same month. In December, 16 more officials were charged following the arrest of two FIFA vice presidents in that same hotel in Zurich. Former Brazil football federation chief Ricardo Teixeira was among the officials accused of being “involved in criminal schemes involving well over $200m (£132m) in bribes and kickbacks.” What was alleged? Swiss prosecutors have accused Sepp Blatter of criminal mismanagement or misappropriation over a TV rights deal and of a “disloyal payment” to European football chief Michel Platini. In the meantime, U.S. authorities have charged 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies. The 47-court indictment said the defendants participated “in a 24-year long scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”. A lot of attention has been focused on a $10m deal that US prosecutors say was a bribe to secure the 2010 World Cup for South Africa. The South African government insists it was a legitimate payment to promote Caribbean football, but other documents that were collected suggest that FIFA vice president Jack Warner used the payment for cash withdrawals, personal loans, and to launder money. FIFA is the body responsible for running world football. Now it has been recently pummeled with accusations of corruption, particularly after awarding the 2022 World Cup to the tiny but rich and influential Gulf state of Qatar. In December of 2014, FIFA purposefully chose not to release its own investigation into corruption. Instead they released an executive summary which it said exonerated the bidding process. The reports independent author, American lawyer Michael Garcia, resigned in protest. The World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world. It is even larger than the Olympics. It generates billions of dollars in revenue from corporate sponsors, broadcasting rights and merchandising. These arrests and investigations cast doubt over the transparency and honesty over FIFA and the process of allocating World Cup tournaments, electing its president, and the administration of funds. This includes those earmarked for improving football facilities in some of the poorer members of FIFA.

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