Zurich (AP) — Four men have already pleaded guilty in the US soccer corruption investigation involving bribes totaling more than $100 million.
Chuck Blazer, for nearly two decades the most senior American official at FIFA, the world soccer body, was among those whose guilty pleas were unsealed Wednesday by US authorities.
Blazer had pocketed millions of dollars in marketing commissions and avoided paying taxes. He has been a cooperating witness for the FBI since leaving soccer in 2013 and has forfeited almost $2 million.
US officials say guilty pleas were also given by Daryan Warner and Daryll Warner, the sons of former senior FIFA official Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago; and Jose Hawilla, an executive of the Brazil-based sports marketing firm Traffic Sports. US officials say Hawilla has agreed to forfeit over $151 million.
They face maximum jail terms of incarceration of 20 years for “the RICO conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges.”
Russia’s top sports official says Russia acted completely within the law when it won the right to host the 2018 World Cup — comments that came after Swiss prosecutors announced a criminal probe into that decision by FIFA, the world soccer body.
Swiss authorities announced Wednesday they are investigating the bidding for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar. In a separate US probe into corruption and bribery in soccer, seven FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday in Zurich.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who sits on the FIFA executive committee, told The Associated Press by telephone that “we’ve got nothing to hide” and “we’re prepared to show everything.”
He says Russia welcomes the Swiss investigation and it will not obstruct the hosting of the 2018 World Cup.
Mutko and Russia 2018 organizing committee head Alexei Sorokin both told The AP that they had not been contacted by investigators yet.