World soccer rocked as top officials held in U.S., Swiss graft cases

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Seven of the most powerful figures in global soccer faced extradition to the United States on corruption charges after being arrested on Wednesday in Switzerland, where authorities also announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups.

The world's most popular sport was plunged into turmoil after U.S. and Swiss authorities announced separate inquiries into the activities of the game's powerful governing body.

U.S. authorities said nine soccer officials and five sports media and promotions executives faced corruption charges involving more than $150 million in bribes. Swiss police arrested seven FIFA officials who are now awaiting extradition to the United States.

Those arrested did not include Sepp Blatter, the Swiss head of FIFA, but included several just below him in the hierarchy of sport's wealthiest body.

Of the 14 indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice, seven FIFA officials, including Vice-President Jeffrey Webb, were being held in Zurich. Four people and two corporate defendants had already pleaded guilty to various charges, the department said.

The Miami, Florida, headquarters of CONCACAF, the soccer federation that governs North America, Central America and the Caribbean, were being searched on Wednesday, the DoJ said.

"As charged in the indictment, the defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world," said FBI Director James Comey. "Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA."

The FIFA officials appeared to have walked into a trap set by U.S. and Swiss authorities. The arrests were made at dawn at a plush Zurich hotel, the Baur au Lac, where FIFA officials are staying ahead of a vote this week where they are expected to anoint Blatter for a fifth term in office. Suites at the hotel cost up to $4,000 a night.

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World soccer rocked as top officials held in U.S., Swiss graft cases
Swiss attorney General Michael Lauber attends a press conference on June 17, 2015 in Bern. Swiss authorities are investigating the 2010 FIFA vote that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 07: Chuck Blazer Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup talks to the media during the FIFA Club World Cup Organising Committee Press Conference at Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel on December 7, 2011 in Nagoya, Japan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
This is a combo of six file photos of the soccer officials involved in the US Justice Department of investigation into corruption at FIFA. From top left clockwise a Jeffrey Webb: Current FIFA vice-president and executive committee member, Concacaf president, Jose Maria Marin Current member of the FIFA organising committee for the Olympic football tournaments, Nicolas Leoz former FIFA executive committee member and Conmebol president, Eugenio Figueredo current FIFA vice-president and executive committee member, Jack Warner, former FIFA vice-president and executive committee member, Concacaf president, and Eduardo Li, current FIFA executive committee member-elect, Concacaf executive committee member . (AP Photo/File)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: An FBI agent wearing a mask carries a box from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes and computers from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
Federal agents load a van with boxes and computers taken from the headquarters of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF,) Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Miami Beach, Fla. Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, only hours after seven soccer officials were arrested Wednesday pending extradition to the U.S. in a separate probe of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, center, arrives for a news conference to announce an indictment against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Nine of the 14 that were indicted by the Justice Department are soccer officials, while four are sports marketing executives and another works in broadcasting. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 27: Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks at a packed news conference at the U.S. Attorneys Office of the Eastern District of New York following the early morning arrest of world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, for racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud on May 27, 2015 in New York City. The morning arrests took place at a hotel where FIFA members were attending a meeting for the world governing body of soccer (football) in Switzerland. The Justice Department unsealed a 47 count indictment early Wednesday charging 14 world soccer figures. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
In this Thursday April 14, 2011 file photo FIFA President Sepp Blatter, right, gives a FIFA pennant to Nicaragua's Soccer Federation President Julio Rocha during the inauguration of the construction of a new National Soccer Stadium in Managua, Nicaragua. Rocha is among the soccer officials that were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)
This is a Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 file photo of Jose Maria Marin, president of the Brazilian football confederation as he speaks during a press conference to announce the proposed host cities for football matches for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marin is among seven soccer officials that were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)
In this Dec. 2, 2008 file photo Eduardo Li, president of Costa Rica's National Soccer Federation, speaks with FIFA vice- President Trinidad and Tobago's Jack Warner, unseen, during a visit to the Project Goal complex in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. Li is among seven soccer officials that were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert, File)
In this Thursday, June 2, 2011 file photo, suspended FIFA executive Jack Warner gestures during a news conference held shortly after his arrival at the airport in Port-of-Spain, in his native Trinidad and Tobago. Suspended FIFA Vice President Jack Warner has resigned from world football's governing body and had the corruption charges against him dropped. Warner was suspended by FIFA last month along with Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam over allegations of bribery during the presidential election. (AP Photo/Shirley Bahadur, File)
In this May 1, 2014 file photo Eugenio Figueredo, president of CONMEBOL, the South America soccer confederation, speaks during a news conference in Bal Harbour, Fla.. Figueredo is among seven soccer officials that were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
In this Nov. 8, 2004 file photo Rafael Esquivel, President of the Venezuelan Soccer Federation, is shown in Caracas, Venezuela. Esquivel is among seven soccer officials that were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch, File)
This is a Wednesday, July 4, 2012 file photo of President of the South American Football Confederation, CONMEBOL, and former FIFA executive member, Paraguay's Nicolas Leoz as he speaks with former Brazilian soccer player Pele during a news conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Leoz was one of the 14 people indicted Wednesday May 27, 2015 in the U.S. on corruption charges. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
In this March 12, 2015 file photo, CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb speaks during a Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football news conference in Philadelphia. Six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich. CONCACAF leader and FIFA vice president Webb of the Cayman Islands, was staying at the luxury hotel this week. It was unclear if he was detained. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Costa Rican Football Federation acting President Jorge Hidalgo speaks during a press conference on May 27, 2015, in Lindora, 20 km west of San Jose, about the capture of Costa Rican Football Federation President Eduardo Li and six executives of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland. AFP PHOTO / Ezequiel BECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces charges against FIFA officials at a news conference on May 27, 2015 in New York. The soccer officials arrested on Wednesday in an investigation into the FIFA governing body have corrupted the international game, Lynch said Wednesday. She spoke after Swiss authorities acting on the US indictments detained several FIFA leaders in a dawn raid in Zurich as part of a corruption probe that has rocked the sport's governing body. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
A graphic called "Sports Marketing Bribery Schemes" is displayed during a news conference announcing an indictment against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption at a news conference, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Nine of the 14 that were indicted by the Justice Department are soccer officials, while four are sports marketing executives and another works in broadcasting. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A graphic called "The Enterprise" is displayed during a news conference announcing an indictment against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption at a news conference, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Nine of the 14 that were indicted by the Justice Department are soccer officials, while four are sports marketing executives and another works in broadcasting. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio arrives to give a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
An FBI agent retrieves equipment from a van as he prepares to re-enter the offices of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF,) Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Miami Beach, Fla. Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, only hours after seven soccer officials were arrested Wednesday pending extradition to the U.S. in a separate probe of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A staff waits prior to a press conference at the FIFA heaquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA Director of Communications Walter de Gregorio attends a press conference at the FIFA headquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
Picture taken from a cell phone video shows hotel employees holding a blanked to hide the identity of a person led out of a side entrance of the Baur au Lac hotel to a waiting car in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. Six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid in the luxury hotel. The case involves bribes "totaling more than US$ 100 million" linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement. (AP Photo/Rob Harris)
FIFA Director of Communications Walter de Gregorio reacts during a press conference at the FIFA headquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
FBI agents retrieve equipment from a van as they prepares to re-enter the offices of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF,) Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Miami Beach, Fla. Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, only hours after seven soccer officials were arrested Wednesday pending extradition to the U.S. in a separate probe of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A man walks by the headquarters of the international soccer's top body FIFA in Zurich, on May 27, 2015. Swiss police raided the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, seizing documents and data, the Swiss attorney-general's office said. The raids were part of an investigation already underway into money laundering and fraud involving FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, a statement said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A cloud is seen above the headquarters of international soccer's top body FIFA, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss policeraided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks by a logo of international soccer's top body FIFA, on May 27, 2015 at the organization's headquarters in Zurich. Swiss policeraided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
Media gathers outside the Hotel Baur-au-Lac where Swiss authorities conducted an early morning operation on May 27, 2015 to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges. FIFA said it was seeking to clarify the situation after six football officials were arrested in Zurich on the request of US authorities, suspected of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars. (Photo credit AFP/Getty Images)
People stand outside the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday, May 27, 2015 where six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid. The case involves bribes "totaling more than US$ 100 million" linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement. (AP Photo/Rob Harris)
FIFA senior Vice President Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, third right, checka his phone outside an hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday morning, May 27, 2015. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said six soccer officials have been arrested and detained pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities ahead of the FIFA congress in Zurich. In a statement Wednesday the FOJ said U.S. authorities suspect the officials of having received paid bribes totaling millions of dollars. Swiss federal prosecutors also announced that they were to open criminal proceedings related to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. (AP Photo/Graham Dunbar)
The Luzhniki Stadium which will host the final of the 2018 World Cup, is under reconstruction in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. After Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings Wednesday into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told The Associated Press "we've got nothing to hide." (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Two men talk to each other in front of the FIFA logo at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, only hours after seven soccer officials were arrested Wednesday pending extradition to the U.S. in a separate probe of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
FIFA President Joseph Blatter s attends a news conference following the FIFA Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, on Friday, March 20, 2015. Among many topics, the Committee discussed the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. (AP Photo/Keystone,Ennio Leanza)
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"DIFFICULT MOMENT"

FIFA called the arrests a "difficult moment" but said Blatter would seek a fifth term as FIFA head as planned and the upcoming World Cups would go ahead as intended.

Separate from the U.S. investigation, Swiss prosecutors said they had opened their own criminal proceedings against unidentified people on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Data and documents were seized from computers at FIFA's Zurich headquarters, the Swiss prosecutors said.

Officials said that following the arrests, accounts at several banks in Switzerland had been blocked.

The U.S. Department of Justice named those arrested in its case as: Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, FIFA Vice-President Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin.

An authoritative source said the extradition process could take years if it was contested.

The DoJ said the defendants included U.S. and South American sports marketing executives alleged to have paid and agreed to pay "well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments".

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

"It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks," she said.

BILLIONS OF DOLLARS

The international governing body of football collects billions of dollars in revenue, mostly from sponsorship and television rights for World Cups.

It has persistently been dogged by reports of corruption which it says it investigates itself, but until now it has escaped major criminal cases in any country.

In particular, the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar, a tiny desert country with no domestic tradition of soccer, was heavily criticized by soccer officials in Western countries. FIFA was forced to acknowledge that it is too hot to play soccer there in the summer when the cup is traditionally held, forcing schedules around the globe to be rewritten to move the cup.

Qatar's stock market fell sharply as news of the Swiss investigation emerged. A Russian official said his country would still host the 2018 World Cup.

Three years ago FIFA hired a former U.S. prosecutor to examine allegations of bribery over the awarding of the World Cups to Qatar and Russia, but last year it refused to publish his report, releasing only a summary in which it said there were no major irregularities. The investigator quit, saying his report had been mischaracterized.

Most of the arrested officials are in Switzerland for the FIFA Congress, where Blatter faces a challenge from Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein in an election on Friday to lead the organization. Other potential challengers to Blatter have all dropped out the race.

Prince Ali, who has promised to clean up FIFA if elected to the top job, said it was "a sad day for football" and called for leadership in the world body that could restore the confidence of hundreds of millions of fans around the world.

English Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke said Wednesday's developments were "very serious for FIFA and its current leadership". England had nominated Prince Ali as a candidate to succeed Blatter and would be backing him if the FIFA leadership vote went ahead.

CONCACAF FOCUS

Much of the U.S. inquiry focuses on CONCACAF, whose Trinidadian former boss Jack Warner was regularly dogged by accusations of corruption before he resigned in 2011, at which point FIFA terminated its investigations of him.

U.S. law gives its courts broad powers to investigate crimes committed by foreigners on foreign soil if money passes through U.S. banks or other activity takes place there.

Damian Collins, a British member of parliament who founded the reform group New FIFA Now, said the arrests could have a massive impact on the governing body.

"The chickens are finally coming home to roost and this sounds like a hugely significant development for FIFA," he told Reuters.

"It proves that Sepp Blatter's promises over the last few years to look into corruption at FIFA have not materialized and because he has totally failed to do this, it has been left to an outside law enforcement agency to do the job and take action."

The arrests could also have implications for sponsorship.

German sportswear company Adidas, long associated with FIFA, said the soccer body should do more to establish transparent compliance standards.

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