FIFA executives arrested over fraud and corruption charges
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FIFA executives arrested over fraud and corruption charges

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World football's governing body, FIFA, is facing an unprecedented crisis after six of its high-ranking officials were arrested this morning and an inquiry was launched into the voting processes of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Just hours before the opening of the annual FIFA Congress in Zurich, Swiss police swooped to detain 14 people – including FIFA’s vice president – with some pending extradition to the US.

Swiss prosecutors – acting in partnership with the US Department of Justice (USDJ) – also raided Fifa's headquarters in Zurich, seizing documents and data.

The US Department of Justice named the six FIFA executives – and seven others connected to FIFA – who have been indicted for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption. They are:

Jeffrey Webb: Current Fifa vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president and head of FIFA’s internal audit committee

Eduardo Li: Current FIFA executive committee member-elect and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president

Julio Rocha: Current FIFA development officer and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president

Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president.

Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member

Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.

Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president

José Maria Marin: Current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments

Nicolás Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president

In addition, four sports marketing executives have been named in the charges.

In a press conference this morning, FIFA spokesperson Walter De Gregorio attempted to play down the arrests, describing the arrests as a “good thing”.

“This for FIFA is good,” he said. “It is not good in terms of image or reputation, but in terms of cleaning up, this is good. It is not a nice day, but it is also a good day. The process goes on and we are looking forward.”

De Gregorio insisted that the FIFA Congress planned for the weekend and the vote for the FIFA president – set to take place on Friday 29 May – will “go ahead as normal”.

He also made efforts to refute calls to reconsider the decision to give the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

De Gregorio said the tournaments in 2018 and 2022 would “certainly” be played in their current host countries, despite the Swiss Police’s investigation into possible irregularities in the voting process.

When pressed on how FIFA could possibly preempt an official investigation into the voting, however, De Gregorio seemed exasperated and appeared to admit that the Russian and Qatari World Cups might be in jeopardy.

“What do you expect me to say,” De Gregorio quipped, and added: "Russia and Qatar will be played, this is fact today. I can't go into speculation about what will happen tomorrow."

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World football's governing body, FIFA, is facing an unprecedented crisis after six of its high-ranking officials were arrested this morning and an inquiry was launched into the voting processes of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

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