Washington: Sixteen more top football officials were charged in a dramatic widening of the FIFA corruption scandal on Thursday, as US prosecutors vowed to leave no stone unturned in their quest to root out graft.
Several senior FIFA officials from the past or present were named in a 92-count US Justice Department indictment which came after a series of dawn raids at a luxury hotel in Zurich hosting FIFA officials.
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Among those indicted on Thursday were the president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Juan Angel Napout, and Alfredo Hawit, head of the North, Central American and Caribbean ruling body (CONCACAF).
Other notable officials indicted include Ricardo Teixeira, the once-powerful former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and a former FIFA vice-president.
The indicted also included Ariel Alvarado, a Panamanian official who currently sits on FIFA`s disciplinary committee.
“The message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus,” US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, describing the allegations as “outrageous” and “unconscionable.”
Lynch revealed that eight more people indicted since authorities launched an earlier wave of FIFA raids and arrests in Switzerland in May had now pleaded guilty.
“I can report eight additional defendants have agreed to plead guilty for their involvement in the corruption scheme,” she said.Among those who had pleaded guilty were Jeffrey Webb, a former FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF.
Webb, who was indicted when the corruption scandal erupted earlier this year, has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering conspiracy.
Webb and former CONCACAF chief Jack Warner, who was indicted earlier, were also accused of siphoning off cash intended for disaster relief, according to the new indictment.
“Certain of the defendants and their co-conspirators, including the defendant Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb, took advantage of these opportunities and embezzled or otherwise personally appropriated funds provided by FIFA, including funds intended for natural disaster relief,” the indictment read.
Napout and Hawit are both in Switzerland where they are now fighting extradition to the United States, officials said.
Both men are suspected of taking millions of dollars in bribes in return for selling marketing rights for regional tournaments and World Cup qualifying matches, according to the US indictment.
The investigation also covered the payment and receipt of bribes in connection with the sponsorship of the Brazilian soccer federation by a major US sportswear company, and the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election. Lynch would not confirm that the US sportswear company was Nike.
Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey meanwhile said those indicted had run corrupt schemes spanning decades.
“For decades, these defendants used their power as the leaders of soccer federations throughout the world to create a web of corruption and greed that compromises the integrity of the beautiful game,” Comey said.
Lynch meanwhile dismissed claims by FIFA`s suspended President Sepp Blatter that the US investigation was triggered by sour grapes over the country`s failed bid for the 2022 World Cup, controversially awarded to Qatar in a 2010 vote.
“I think (Blatter) is well aware of the nature of our charges,” Lynch said.
“This covers years of conduct by dozens and dozens of people from the past into the future. I called it outrageous and unconscionable. That still stands.”