BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Instead of fulfilling their duty to “keep soccer honest,” high-ranking officials of FIFA “corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday.
Lynch made the announcement in her old stomping ground, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, as prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing 14 people of participating in a 24-year racketeering scheme that netted FIFA $150 million. Authorities in Zurich, Switzerland, arrested seven of the defendants Wednesday night.
The defendants, including high-ranking officials with the Federation International de Football Association, are accused of taking kickbacks for the broadcast of international soccer tournaments and raided the Miami-based futbol association.
“They did this over and over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament,” Lynch said in a televised news conference.
The 47-count indictment filed this morning in Manhattan comes after a “long-running investigation,” Lynch added.
She said four people have already pleaded guilty.
Lynch blamed the co-conspirators for having “corrupted the world of soccer” and abusing their “positions of trust” over the last two decades.
Kelly Currie, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said it was “greed that drove them to use and exploit their positions for cash.”
Currie stepped in as Brooklyn’s top federal prosecutor after his predecessor, Lynch, left for Washington last month.
They “corrupted the enterprise,” of soccer, he said.
The indictment includes counts of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
It accuses Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, current and former president, respectively, of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, among others, of making bribes to get “lucrative” marketing rights to broadcast tournaments.
Lynch noted that authorities executed a search warrant on Miami-based CONCACAF this morning.
Charles Blazer, former general CONCACAF secretary, and Jose Hawilla, the owner of Traffic Group, a marketing conglomerate, are among those who already pleaded guilty, prosecutors say.
Lynch noted that the alleged scam “spans at least two generations of soccer officials who … have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”
FIFA allegedly got 70 percent of its $5.7 billion in revenues between 2011 and 2014 for the sale of television and marketing rights to the 2014 World Cup.
In addition to current FIFA VP Webb and former VP Warner, the indictment takes aim at CONCACAF’s Eduardo Li; FIFA development officer Julio Rocha; Costas Takkas, the attaché to CONCACAF’s president; Eugenio Figueredo, the current FIFA vice president; Rafael Esquivel, a vice president of CONMEBOL; Rafael Esquiviel, CONMEBOL executive committee member; Jose Maria Marin, a FIFA member; and Nicolas Leoz, a former FIFA member.
Prosecutors say Daryll Warner, a former FIFA development officer and son of the indicted former FIFA vice president, pleaded guilty under seal to wire fraud in July 2013.
Daryan Warner also pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in October 2013.
Blazer copped to charges on a 10-count indictment in November 2013.
Hawilla, of the sports marketing conglomerate Traffic Group of Brazil, also pleaded guilty to four counts of racketeering in December 2014, feds say.
Feds say the investigation is continuing.
Also named as defendants are Alejandro Burzcaro, the head of a sports marketing business in Argentina; Aaron Davidson, the president of Traffic Sports USA Inc.; and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, heads of Full Play Group SA, an Argentina-based sports marketing business.
Traffic Sports USA Inc. and Traffic Sports International Inc. pleaded guilty to wire fraud last May.
Jose Margulies of the Valene Corp. and Somerton Ltd. was also named for acting as an intermediary in the alleged conspiracy.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie unsealed the documents today.
Those indicted and convicted face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Figueredo faces another faces another 10 years and faces deportation.
Blazer faces an additional charge of 10 years, while the Warners face another 10 years if convicted.
They all face up to $500,000 fines, the federal government said.
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