FIFA Responds To Corruption Charges & Says The Inquiry Will Be Good For The Organization

After an extraordinary operation that led to seven senior officials' arrests, FIFA responded to the corruption charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and that were unsealed Wednesday. Nine FIFA officials were named in the indictment, along with five American sports marketing executives, on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies. The indictment comes as a stunning hit to the world's most popular sport that has long been plagued with accusations of bribery, corruption, and scandal.

During a press conference Wednesday, FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio, with the help of an English translator, insisted the organization was fully cooperating with authorities. He refused to comment on the multiple arrests that took place in Zurich and said he could not comment on the identities of the officials charged or how many were named in the indictment. He directed those questions to the Swiss attorney general handling the investigation.

Though the allegations signify dark days for the soccer organization, De Gregorio said the inquiry would ultimately help FIFA remove doubt from fans and the soccer community over its proceedings.

This for FIFA is good. It is not good in terms of image or reputation, but in terms of cleaning up, this is good.
SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images

De Gregorio said FIFA initiated this process on Nov. 18, launching a legal complaint with the federal attorney regarding the World Cup bids of 2018 and 2022. The two tournaments were the center of a very public uproar, during which officials were accused of accepting bribes in exchange for their bid votes. The Swiss Office of the Attorney General announced Wednesday it opened criminal proceedings against FIFA officials suspected of mismanagement and money laundering in relation to the vote. But as of now, said the spokesman, the World Cups will continue to be held in the disputed countries.

Russia and Qatar will be played. This is what is fact today.
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De Gregorio also defended Sepp Blatter's role as FIFA president, saying Blatter was not involved in the alleged corruption. Blatter's tenure has been plagued with accusations of corruption throughout FIFA's organization. He also said that Blatter (pictured above), along with the rest of FIFA, did not receive advance notice of the arrests. Blatter faces a fifth reelection Friday during the organization's annual meeting, which will go ahead as planned. In the end, De Gregorio said FIFA sees itself as the victim in the allegations, succinctly saying:

FIFA is the damaged party.

In a statement released just minutes before FIFA's news conference, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the real victims in the alleged corruption were the sport's fans from across the world and the developing countries that should have benefited from the high-profile matches.

Today's action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice — and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.

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