FIFA President Sepp Blatter Resigns In Wake Of International Scandal
Embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigned on Tuesday, following a massive Department of Justice investigation that exposed years of systemic corruption within the international soccer organization. Blatter, who has been involved with FIFA since 1975 and served as the organization's president since 1998, has yet to be indicted. However, federal prosecutors alleged on Monday that FIFA secretary general and right-hand man, Jérôme Valcke, may have transferred as much as $10 million to a soccer official indicted on bribery charges — a new detail in the mammoth soccer scandal that may have finally cost Blatter his job.
"I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the forty years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football," Blatter said at a press conference on Tuesday. "I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football. ... FIFA needs a profound overhaul."Blatter said he will continue his duties as FIFA president until the next election. The next FIFA Congress is scheduled for May 2016 in Mexico City, but Blatter called for an extraordinary congress to find and elect his next successor before then; that election could come as early as December. "This will need to be done in line with FIFA’s statutes and we must allow enough time for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign," Blatter said Tuesday.Blatter added that in the meantime, while FIFA looks for a new president, he will focus on "far-reaching, fundamental reforms." It appears some of these reforms will include term limits for FIFA's executive committee, as well as "integrity checks" for committee members. Members of the executive committee were not elected by the FIFA congress, but appointed by the soccer confederations that work under the FIFA umbrella. "I have fought for these changes before and as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked," Blatter said. "This time, I will succeed."
The Department of Justice indicted nine FIFA officials and five Corporate executives last Wednesday on 47 counts of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other charges, concluding a 24-year corruption scheme that made FIFA members rich through million-dollar kickbacks and bribes. Another six defendants have also pleaded guilty, the DOJ said.
"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said when the charges were announced. “It has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries ... to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable."
The indictment alleges that soccer officials gained more than $150 million in funds from sports marketing executives over the last two decades. Prosecutors alleged FIFA members conspired to solicit these funds by bribing the sports companies, who in turned made unlawful payments to the international soccer organization.
Among the indicted were several high-ranking FIFA officials, including current vice president Jeffrey Webb, who also previously served as president of CONCACAF, one of the six regional confederations that operates under FIFA. Webb was dismissed from his position at CONCACAF last week, and replaced by senior vice president Alfredo Hawit, who said CONCACAF members were "profoundly disappointed" by the allegations.
Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner and current FIFA development officer Julio Rocha, two top-ranking officials, were also indicted by the DoJ last Wednesday.
Prosecutors previously alleged that Warner took a $10 million bribe in 2008, and now it appears that money came from Jérôme Valcke, Blatter's top official. Valcke was not named in the indictment, but The New York Times reported on Monday that federal prosecutors believe the secretary-general was the one who transferred the $10 million to Warner.
Valcke denied the allegation to The New York Times via email, saying he did not authorize the bank transfer. In the indictment, Valcke is allegedly described as a "high-ranking FIFA official."
However, the news further ensnared Blatter, as Valcke is FIFA's second-in-command. Over the last day, speculation grew as the corruption investigation moves closer to FIFA's figurehead. So far, neither Blatter nor Valcke have been charged.
"It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision," Blatter said Tuesday. "What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner."A previous version of this article referred to Webb as the current president of CONCACAF. We apologize for this error.
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