FIFA officials arrested in corruption probe

Zurich, Switzerland ( - Officials from FIFA, soccer's world governing body, were arrested Wednesday in Switzerland in connection with a United States Justice Department indictment on charges of corruption and bribery.

FIFA, in a statement Wednesday, said it is cooperating with Swiss authorities, who arrested seven people on Wednesday at the request of officials from the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

The organization has been accused of bribery for decades, particularly as it relates to the bidding processes for international tournaments and media rights, including its biggest event -- the World Cup.

"FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football," the statement read Wednesday. "We understand that today's actions by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice on behalf of the U.S. authorities and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (initiated by FIFA through the submission of the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process) relate to different matters."

United States prosecutors say they have discovered a dozen different schemes while investigating corruption at FIFA, and that some involved awarding the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.

At a news conference in New York on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that FIFA officials have solicited bribes from sports marketing firms and others in exchange for media contracts surrounding international events.

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," said Lynch in announcing the 47- count federal indictment against 14 defendants. "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."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is not among those being charged.

Nine of the 14 charged are FIFA officials, while five others are involved with sports marketing firms and media companies.

FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay were among those arrested on Wednesday, as well as Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil.

Of the seven arrested Wednesday, reports indicate that many will fight extradition proceedings.

According to the FIFA release, the arrests were in relation to activities carried out in relation with soccer federations in South America (CONMEBOL) and North America, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), as well as for the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

"Today, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General announced that it has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown in relation to the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process," FIFA's statement continued. "FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard. As noted by the Swiss authorities, this collection of evidence is being carried out on a cooperative basis."

FIFA has still scheduled a presidential election for Friday, at which time Blatter is expected to receive a fifth term.

The 2018 World Cup was awarded to Russia, and the 2022 event went to Qatar.