If there were a World Cup for tackling corruption in soccer, the US would now be the runaway favorite to win it. At least six officials from FIFA, soccer's world governing body, were arrested in a surprise overnight raid at a hotel in Zurich, where they had gathered for their annual meeting, the AP reports. More:
- The soccer chiefs are being held pending possible extradition to the US on federal corruption charges that go back more than 20 years and include alleged bribery involving World Cup bids, sources tell the New York Times.
- The Times' sources say US prosecutors targeted members of FIFA's powerful and secretive executive committee, and the BBC reports that those arrested include Jeffrey Webb, head of the confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean.
- The officials arrested in Zurich do not include FIFA President Sepp Blatter—who is up for re-election Friday—but sources tell the Guardian that nearly a dozen other soccer officials worldwide may have been arrested overnight.
- The bribery allegations are believed to center on bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and the Swiss have now opened their own investigation into the bidding, reports the BBC.
- The charges follow a long FBI investigation, reports CNN, which notes that although most or all of the alleged bribery is believed to have occurred outside the US, American prosecutors may be able to claim jurisdiction because of the long reach of US banking regulations, and because the US is the biggest World Cup television market. (Allegations of FIFA corruption go back many years and include claims that Russia gave away a Picasso as it bribed its way toward hosting the 2018 World Cup.)