FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio believes Wednesday morning’s arrests of several senior FIFA officialson racketeering and corruption charges is an opportunity to clean up the football governing body.
“This for FIFA is good,” De Gregorio said in a news conference from Zurich. “It’s not good in terms of image, it’s not good in terms of reputation, but in terms of cleaning up, everything we did in the last four years, this is good.”
The organisation is facing two separate criminal investigations: One from the Swiss Attorney General regarding the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the other from the US Department of Justice, which resulted in the arrest of nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives on Wednesday.
An indictment from the US Department of Justice has charged 14 people with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies in connection with their participation in a “24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.”
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” US Attorney General Lynch said in a statement.
FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, was not charged and a presidential election scheduled for Friday will go ahead as planned.
“The stress factor is higher today than yesterday but [Blatter] is relaxed,” De Gregorio said of the president’s reaction to the arrests. De Gregorio later clarified that Blatter is “not dancing in his office,” but that he is fully cooperating with the investigation.
The arrests were carried out at 6 a.m. local time by Swiss authorities at the Baur au Lac hotel.
Despite the corruption probe, De Gregorio said the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and the World Cup in Qatar will still go ahead.
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