Asian soccer federation backs Blatter amid FIFA arrests

May 28, 2015 08:30 am | Updated November 16, 2021 05:04 pm IST - KUALA LUMPUR

In this December 2, 2010 photo, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announces Russia as the host nation for the FIFA World Cup 2018, in Zurich.

In this December 2, 2010 photo, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announces Russia as the host nation for the FIFA World Cup 2018, in Zurich.

The Asian Football Confederation says it still supports Sepp Blatter’s bid for another term as FIFA president, and opposes any move to delay Friday’s scheduled elections.

Soccer’s world governing body was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday when senior office holders from the Americas were among officials arrested by Swiss police in a luxury Zurich hotel to face racketeering charges.

In a statement on its website, the AFC expressed its “disappointment and sadness” at Wednesday’s events but also said it “reiterates its decision taken at the AFC Congress in Sao Paulo in 2014.... to support FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.”

The European federation UEFA had called for Friday’s elections in Zurich to be postponed due to the arrests and allegations, but the AFC said it was “opposing any delay”.

U.S. charges against FIFA officials, possible sentences

The U.S. Justice Department has charged five executives and nine officials of soccer's global governing body, FIFA, with racketeering.

U.S. code defines racketeering as any criminal activity performed to benefit an organization, including extortion, money laundering and bribery. In a 166-page indictment, the Justice Department accused the defendants of engaging in such activities.

The charges

The indictment accused the defendants and co-conspirators of engaging in fraud, bribery and money laundering since 1991 to solicit and receive $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.

* The indictment claimed that South Africa paid $10 million to Jack Warner, former FIFA vice president and executive committee member of CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America, Caribbean Association Football), to obtain his and two other FIFA executive committee member votes for its successful bid to host the World Cup in 2010.

* In 2011 an unnamed co-conspirator who wanted to declare himself a candidate for FIFA president plotted with Warner to get Caribbean Football Union member support. After a meeting with the members on his candidacy at a hotel in Trinidad and Tobago, Warner told officials from the Caribbean Football Union member associations to pick up a "gift" afterwards in another conference room, where each member found an envelope stuffed with $40,000, the indictment claimed. Warner facilitated the payment on behalf of the unnamed co-conspirator, according to the indictment.

* The indictment claimed that a sports marketing company called Datisa, jointly owned by Traffic Sports, Torneos and Full Play, paid $100 million in bribes to FIFA officials in exchange for the 2013 Copa America contract. An executive from each company has been indicted and the founder of Traffic Group Jose Hawilla has pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges. Traffic Sports USA Inc and Traffic Sports International have also pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, the Justice Department said.

Possible sentences

* U.S. code states that racketeering violations should carry no more than 20 years of imprisonment unless the activity carries a life sentence, such as murder.

* The Justice Department said the defendants face maximum terms of 20 years.

* One defendant, Eugenio Figueredo, could face an additional 10 years if found guilty of providing false evidence to U.S. immigration authorities when he stated he was working in the United States as a "decorative rock" salesman.

* In the past, members of criminal organizations such as the mafia and street gangs have been convicted on racketeering charges.

* In 2006, several tobacco companies including Philip Morris and Lorillard Inc were found guilty under the racketeering statute of covering up health risks of smoking.

* In other types of cases, racketeering charges were brought against oil producer Chesapeake Energy over land leasing practices and 11 former Atlanta public school educators who were found guilty in a test cheating scandal. CASE ONGOING

* U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch declined to comment on whether FIFA president Sepp Blatter was a target in the investigation.

* Several U.S. banks including Bank of America and Citibank were named in the indictment as having been used to clear currency FIFA officials transferred from overseas banks.

* Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Kelly Currie said at a press conference, "Part of our investigation will look at the conduct of the financial institutions to see whether they were cognizant of the fact they were helping launder these bribe payments. It's too early to say if there is any problematic behavior, but it will be part of our investigation."

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