27 May 2015
Fifa has announced that it will go ahead with its presidential elections on Friday, despite the arrest of seven officials on charges of bribery.
The officials, who are accused of receiving more than $150 million in bribes, were arrested in an early-morning raid on their hotel in Zurich, just days before Fifa’s AGM. A separate raid was launched against Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich, where officers seized electronic data and have opened criminal proceedings over the host rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The charges levelled against the officials include bribery linked to commercial deals from as far back as the 1990s, corruption and the fostering of ‘a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field’. Among those arrested was Jeffrey Webb, a vice-president of Fifa.
The data seized from Fifa’s headquarters is to be used in an investigation into criminal mismanagement and money laundering. It has emerged that Fifa accepted bribes to host the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. These revelations have resulted in new scrutiny on the allocation of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which had been given to Russia and Qatar. Fifa has stated that there will not be a revote and both countries will remain hosts. In response to news that criminal proceedings had been opened, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko announced that his country had ‘nothing to hide’.
Fifa’s reaction to the arrests has been resolute, stating that the organisation is committed to reform. Spokesman Walter De Gregorio insisted that: ‘This is good for Fifa. It hurts, it is not easy, but it confirms we are on the right track’. Fifa subsequently stated that they welcomed ‘actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football’. This statement is reflected in the fact that, despite such a blow against the organisation and the arrest of several of its most important members, Fifa will be going ahead with its presidential elections on Friday.