A question mark hangs over elaborate preparations for World Cup tournaments in Russia and Qatar after two sensational corruption probes were launched against world football governing body Fifa today.
Seven Fifa officials were arrested in dawn raids in Switzerland on Wednesday morning at the request of the US authorities after they were indicted for corruption. The amounts involved are alleged to be above $150m.
The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here– Loretta E. Lynch, US Attorney General
Just hours later, Swiss authorities launched their own criminal inquiry specifically into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which are to be hosted by Russia and Qatar, respectively.Â
Swiss police raided Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich and seized electronic evidence.
In all, 14 football officials were indicted today for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption.
Among those arrested in Switzerland is Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb.
"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch (pictured) said in a statement today. "It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks."
The raids have come just two days before the scheduled Fifa election on Friday in which long-time Fifa president Sepp Blatter faces the sole challenger, the Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.
Walter De Gregorio, Fifa director of communications, today dismissed suggestions that there could be a re-vote on the hosting of the Russia and Qatar tournaments.
But much depends on who within Fifa gets implicated in the full investigations, and whether Blatter – a staunch defender of the Russian and Qatari bids – survives Friday’s elections, said James Dorsey, senior fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, to CNBC today.
Swiss Federal Police will question Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko about how Fifa awarded the 2018 World Cup, according to CNN, which quoted a source with knowledge of the case.
Photograph: US Attorney General Loretta Lynch enters a packed news conference in New York following the early morning arrest of world football figures, including officials of Fifa, for racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud on May 27, 2015 (Getty)