ZURICH / SWITZERLAND - FIFA, the supreme body of world football, is the subject of various investigations, one US and one from Switzerland. Nine leaders of FIFA were arrested in Switzerland this week after being charged with suspicion of corruption involving an amount of up to $ 150 million.
By ANTONIO CARLOS LACERDA
Hours later, Swiss authorities announced that they would do their own research on the process of choosing Cups of host countries, 2018 (Qatar) and 2022 (Russia). The Swiss police entered the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, and seized electronic evidence.
Why is this important?
FIFA is the body responsible for world football. In recent years, it suffered allegations of corruption, particularly in the process of choosing the 2022 World headquarters - the winner was Qatar. In December 2014, FIFA decided not to release its own investigation of corruption - which, according to the organization, said the selection process was free. The report's author, American Michael Garcia, resigned.
The World Cup generates billions of dollars in revenue. The arrests and the investigation cast doubt on the transparency and honesty of the selection process in recent tournaments.
How come Brazil appears in research?
Three Brazilians are implicated in the corruption scheme, according to the US Department of Justice. One of them is the former president of the CBF José Maria Marin - the note from the Department of Justice does not detail the suspicions against him. The CBF was expressed about the investigation through a statement saying "wait, responsibly, its conclusion without any judgment to previously condemn or declare innocent."
A US court says José Hawilla, owner of the Traffic Group, the largest sports marketing agency in Latin America, confessed to the crimes. The Traffic owns broadcast rights, sponsorship and promotion of sporting events and players, and media companies in Brazil. Consulted by the report, the attorney J. Hawilla, José Luis de Oliveira Lima, said the owner of Traffic "supports the investigation and provided clarifications due to US authorities" and is released in the United States.
The third Brazilian investigated by the FBI is José Lazaro Margulies, owner of Valente companies Corp. and Somerton Ltd., both linked to sports broadcasts. A statement released by the US Justice further states that it investigates alleged payment and receipt of bribes in a sponsorship "of the CBF for a large company US sportswear."
The US court also cites the Brazil Cup, organized by CBF, as one of the competitions in which there might have been corruption in negotiating broadcast and marketing rights. The World Cup 2014, held in Brazil, is not mentioned specifically in the document.
How would the scheme?
The complaint states that from 1991 to date, FIFA officials were involved in various crimes, including fraud, bribery and money laundering. The court states that two generations of leaders have used their positions to make partnerships with sports marketing executives who prevented others from having access to contracts and maintained the business for them through tuition fees.
Most of the schemes, according to the Justice Department, involves receiving bribes from marketing executives to marketing of media rights and marketing of various sports competitions - including Copa America, Copa Libertadores and Brazil.
Who are the accused?
Football key figures were arrested in Latin America, North America and the Caribbean. In addition to the Brazilian involved, the president of CONCACAF, Jeffrey Webb, was arrested, seen as a likely successor to the organization's president, Joseph Blatter.
Another key figure is Charles "Chuck" Blazer, FIFA's former representative in the US, who apparently became an FBI informant. He pleaded guilty and has returned $ 1.9 million.
Joseph Blatter was arrested?
No. The FIFA president - and most powerful man in world football - is not among those mentioned in US indictments. But the American justice states that they were involved in the service of FIFA - of which he is president. So far, he did not comment. Blatter is likely to be re-elected to the presidency of the organization on Friday.
Recently, he was forced to deny rumors that he was avoiding travel to the US because he feared arrest.
Why were they arrested?
The FBI has been investigating Fifa for three years. The investigations were initiated because of the process of choosing the countries headquarters of the cups 2018 and 2022 (Russia and Qatar) but was expanded to analyze the FIFA agreements over the past 20 years.
The accusation of the US Department of Justice says that corruption was planned in the US, even when it was done elsewhere. The use of US banks to transfer money is a key part of the investigation.
It is the headquarters of FIFA - the registration of the organization as a charity makes it pay reduced taxes. Switzerland is known as a country where non-transparent companies are welcome, especially in relation to taxes. But its extradition agreement with the US is clear: people involved in crimes may be sent to the United States.
Apparently, US authorities pounced when FIFA's annual congress made everyone gather in a country that would not put obstacles to extradition.
The Swiss also seem to be going after Fifa, with three ongoing investigations - including one announced hours after the arrests, on the choice of the host cities of the next World Cup.
How much money is involved?
A lot, supposedly.
The US complaint alleges corruption involving US $150 million, and this does not include other transactions around the world. An earlier report on corruption in the Caribbean, leaked, claims that bribes of $ 40,000 were paid to officials in envelopes full of cash.
Almost all income comes from the FIFA World Cup, the most lucrative sporting event in the world - surpassing the Olympics. Last year's World Cup cost Brazil about $4 billion, and FIFA profited over $ 2 billion. The cost of the next two World Cups should be higher: the World Cup in Qatar should cost more than $ 6 billion.
Only competing to host the World Cup already has a huge cost: the British FA spent 21 million pounds to run for the 2018 World Cup.
The Cup of Russia and Qatar will be held in other countries?
This is unlikely, but not impossible. The US complaint deals with corruption in the past - the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, for example, is mentioned - but not future venues. The Swiss investigations shall be fruitful in this regard, but we would need to have overwhelming evidence to make the election again.
Qatar faces complaints of mistreatment of immigrants working in the World Cup works.
Changing the Russian Cup would be difficult. Few countries have stadiums, infrastructure and money to host the event in such a short time. In that event an option would be Germany, which hosted the 2006 World Cup.
Qatar is much more vulnerable and has been flooded with complaints and allegations of corruption since it was chosen to host. But even after seeing several corruption scandals, an unprecedented change of a summer tournament to winter and a scandal over deaths of migrant workers, there are chances that they still Host the most important football competition in the world.
But according to the US Attorney Kelly T. Currie, the investigation will not stop there.
"After decades, according to the complaint, the blatant corruption, organized international football needs a fresh start - a new chance for their institutions to make an honest oversight and support a beloved sport around the world. Let me be clear: this complaint is not the last chapter of our investigation, "he said.
In turn, Russia complained about the US stance with FIFA, "the world judge". The Russian Foreign Ministry said the arrests of leaders of FIFA and football marketing executives appeared to be an illegal US attempt to impose its laws on foreign states.
"Without going into details about the allegations that have been raised, they point to the fact that this is another case of illegal extraterritorial application of US laws," the Foreign Ministry of Russia said in a statement on its website.
The Russian Ministry also said it hoped the arrests are not used to tarnish the image of FIFA and not put a shadow over its decisions, including decisions of a personal nature.
"Once again, we ask that Washington stop trying to establish itself as a judge beyond its borders, and follow international legal procedures," the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.
ANTONIO CARLOS LACERDA is International Correspondent PRAVDA.RU
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