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  • Writer's pictureAshwani Agarwal

Red or Green Card for FIFA?

FIFA is now facing intense scrutiny amid a global corruption scandal. With several developments since many senior staff members were first indicted just a few weeks ago, FIFA’s reputation is on the verge of being destroyed. However, to many it comes as no surprise, with speculations around bribery and money laundering being talked about for years.

Only now, with an informant at their side, ex FIFA exec Chuck Blazer is FIFA’s money laundering antics been uncovered. But how was this achieved? And why only now? Why not earlier?

Below we discuss how the US can indict and arrest overseas executives in this FIFA scandal.

What Is FIFA?

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, also sometimes referred to as the International Federation of Association Football, was founded in 1904 and is the international governing body of soccer. As such, FIFA is responsible for organizing the sport’s major international tournaments, including the World Cup and the Women’s World Cup. Based in Zurich, FIFA includes an impressive membership of more than 200 national associations from such countries as France, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Recently, FIFA announced that the organization has considered an investigation into allegations made regarding corruption in the awarding of the World Cup tournament to Russia in 2018 and to Qatar in 2022. Corruption charges have now been announced in the United States against 14 people.

According to a FIFA-appointed judge, any improper behaviour that may have occurred during the bidding process was of limited scope. Even so, contention remains regarding exactly what took place during the bidding process. According to some reports, documents and other evidence related to the Russian bid have been lost and relevant witness regarding the Qatar bid have been unavailable to provide testimony.

What Is RECO? How Can the US Indict Organizations Outside the US in a FIFA Case?

What exactly does the case have to do with the United States, and could the United States even pursue an indictment of an organization outside the U.S., such as with the FIFA case? The current FIFA charges are actually based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970. This act, more commonly referred to as RICO, was originally passed by Congress with the intention of targeting the mafia, but since then it has been used for indicting not only American citizens but also foreign nationals. While the accused might not necessarily be in the United States, if they have contact with the U.S., such as through bank accounts, even foreign nationals could fall under the complex and expansive nature of RICO.

All that is necessary for such a situation to fall under RICO is to have an organization, such as FIFA, and persons associated with that organization who are accused of committing a pattern of criminal acts, such as money laundering or fraud, which are related to the organization. It is worth noting, however, that while the United States might technically be able to claim jurisdiction in order to indict the individuals in this case under RICO, whether those individuals will be actually extradited to the U.S. for trial is a different story.

The Corruption and the FCPA Charges in the Game

The charges brought in the case include those brought against Jack Warner, who previously headed the North American soccer federation. Warner has been accused of using his position during his tenure at FIFA for personal gain. After turning himself over to police in Trinidad, Warner was arrested following a request from the U.S. Although no American companies were actually identified in the indictments, allegations have been made that bribes were granted in relation to sponsorship of the national soccer team in Brazil by a major American sportswear company. That issue alone has once again brought up the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for those companies associated with FIFA marketing and sponsorship. Although international organizations are not actually covered by FCPA, FIFA could well fall under the FCPA since national soccer federations could be considered state-owned businesses according to FCPA.

The Political Angle

Allegations of corruption do not end there, either. Russian President Vladimir Putin has now stepped into the matter by accusing the U.S. of interfering in FIFA’s affairs and has even intimated that such meddling may have been part of an attempt to snatch the 2018 World Cup from Russia. Putin went a step further, stating that even if there had been improper behaviour, Russia had nothing to do with it, hinting that persecution efforts by the U.S. were illegal in nature.

Watch This Space

Developments continue to be revealed. With Sepp Blatter’s shock resignation last week and now documents proving Ex-VP Jack Warner used 10m of FIFAs money in bribes, they are sure to find those accountable for such fraudulent acts. Whether the law will get in the way of justice being served to those directly responsible is unknown, but nonetheless, it is certainly heading in the right direction.

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