Wednesday, May 27, 2015

FIFA: THE LATEST: Nike Says It Is Cooperating In FIFA Probe

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, center, arrives for a news conference to announce an indictment against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Nine of the 14 that were indicted by the Justice Department are soccer officials, while four are sports marketing executives and another works in broadcasting.

ZURICH (AP) — The Latest on FIFA developments:

11:40 p.m. (2140 GMT), 5:40 p.m. EDT)
Nike says it is cooperating with authorities in the U.S. probe of FIFA, the governing body of soccer worldwide.
On Wednesday, U.S. officials charged seven FIFA members with racketeering and corruption and announced a sweeping investigation. Swiss officials also raided FIFA headquarters, seizing records and computers to investigate whether the decisions to award World Cups to Russia and Qatar were rigged.
Nike is not an official FIFA sponsor. But it pays to have the Brazilian and other countries' national teams wear its shirts and other gear. This is the first time it has acknowledged that it has been contacted in the investigation.
11:10 p.m. (2150 GMT, 5:10 p.m. EDT)
Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner turned himself in to Trinidad police shortly after they issued an arrest warrant at the request of U.S. authorities. He has been released on $2.5 million bail.
Warner arrived at a police station in the capital of Port-of-Spain with at least one lawyer Wednesday. He did not enter a plea and is scheduled to appear in court again July 12.
Warner, who has proclaimed his innocence, is one of 14 people indicted in the U.S. on corruption charges involving international soccer's governing body FIFA.
Warner was forced out of FIFA in 2011 over a bribery scandal.
Two sons of Warner were among four who pleaded guilty to U.S. charges that were unsealed Wednesday.
10:30 p.m. (2030 GMT, 4:30 p.m. EDT)
The North American Soccer League says it has suspended its chairman along with all business activities with the sports marketing firm that owns one of the league's teams amid a U.S. criminal investigation into corruption in world soccer.
The league's board of governors says the suspension of both chairman Aaron Davidson and any business with Traffic Sports USA was effective immediately. The NASL says Commissioner Bill Peterson will take over as acting chairman.
Davidson is the president of Traffic Sports, which owns the Carolina RailHawks, based in Cary, North Carolina, a suburb of Raleigh. The league says the RailHawks will "continue to operate in the ordinary course of business."
In a statement, the U.S. Justice Department said Davidson was among four defendants described as sports marketing executives
10 p.m. (2000 GMT, 4 p.m. EDT)
Paraguay's foreign ministry says it has received an extradition request from the United States for Nicolas Leoz in the FIFA corruption investigation.
Foreign ministry legal director Ruben Ortiz said the request arrived Wednesday for Leoz, the former president of the South American Football Confederation.
Ortiz says it will be forwarded on to the Supreme Court and reviewed by the Attorney General's office, which will decide whether to issue an arrest warrant for the 87-year-old Leoz.
Leoz was president of the federation, known as Conmebol, from 1986 to 2013.
9:20 p.m. (1920 GMT, 3:20 p.m. EDT)
Former soccer great Diego Maradona says that for years he has said FIFA was corrupt but that he wasn't taken seriously.
"I was treated like a crazy person," Maradona told radio station Radio La Red in Buenos Aires. "Now the FBI has told the truth."
"There is no soccer. There is no transparency. Enough lying to people and dinner parties to re-elect Blatter," he said, speaking about Friday's vote on whether FIFA President Sepp Blatter will get elected to a fifth term.
"The money spent on that should be used to give kids in Africa a soccer field," adding that "FIFA has billions of dollars and there are players in the world who don't make $150,000."
9:10 p.m. (1910 GMT, 3:10 p.m. EDT)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter says FIFA will work hard with authorities to "root out any misconduct" after the arrest and indictment of several top officials in a far-reaching corruption investigation.
Blatter said Wednesday: "We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us."
But the 79-year-old Blatter insisted that the "investigations by the U.S. and Swiss authorities and (we) believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football."
Blatter is seeking a fifth, four-year term as FIFA president on Friday.
He said: "We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing."
8:35 p.m. (1835 GMT, 2:35 p.m. EDT)
FIFA has suspended 11 people, including two of its vice presidents, from all soccer-related activities on Wednesday following a U.S. criminal investigation into corruption in world soccer.
The vice presidents — Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay — were arrested in Zurich early Wednesday after being indicted in the U.S.
FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert says "the charges are clearly related to football."
The other people suspended by FIFA's ethics committee including former executive committee members Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz and Chuck Blazer.
The others are Costa Rican soccer federation president Eduardo Li, Venezuela FA chief Rafael Esquivel, former Brazilian FA chief Jose Maria Marin, Costas Takkas, who works for CONCACAF President Webb, FIFA development officer Julio Rocha and Warner's son Daryll.
7:45 p.m. (1745 GMT, 1:45 p.m. EDT)
The European soccer body UEFA has called for FIFA to postpone its presidential vote, scheduled for Friday, and says it may boycott this week's annual FIFA Congress.
UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino says corruption investigations into FIFA "tarnish the image of football as a whole." He said European football associations will debate Thursday whether to boycott the Zurich congress.
Infantino says UEFA's executive committee wants "a change to the leadership" of FIFA, with the congress to be postponed and a new presidential election held within six months. UEFA is supporting Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan in the race but FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been strongly favored to be elected to a fifth, four-year term before Wednesday's arrests.
Blatter was not among the seven FIFA officials arrested Wednesday.
7:25 p.m. (1725 GMT, 1:25 p.m. EDT)
Russia's Foreign Ministry is lashing out at the United States over the arrest in Switzerland of seven officials from FIFA, the world soccer body.
U.S. corruption charges were unveiled Wednesday against 14 people, and seven of them, all FIFA officials, were arrested Wednesday in Zurich. In addition, Swiss prosecutors announced criminal proceedings into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the arrests were "evidently another case of illegal extra-territorial implementation of American law."
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."
7:15 p.m. (1715 GMT, 1:15 p.m. EDT)
Former Brazilian star Romario, now a federal senator, has called Brazilian soccer official Jose Maria Marin "one of the biggest thieves" in sports in the country.
Marin, the former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, was among seven high-ranking soccer officials arrested Wednesday in Zurich on U.S. charges of corruption.
Romario, a former FIFA world player of the year, spoke Wednesday at a senate hearing in the capital, Brasilia.
Romario has been an outspoken critic of FIFA and of top officials in Brazilian football. He says "unfortunately, it wasn't our police that arrested them, but someone had to eventually arrest them one day."
6:55 p.m. (1655 GMT, 12:55 p.m. EDT)
South American soccer officials have had a variety of reactions to the arrests of seven senior FIFA officials in Zurich.
The Brazilian soccer federation says it "fully supports any type of investigation" into corruption in soccer and "reaffirms its commitment to the truth and transparency." Former Brazilian soccer chief Jose Maria Marin of Brazil was among those arrested.
The Costa Rica attorney general's office says it has opened an investigation into its arrested FIFA executive, Eduardo Li.
The Uruguay soccer federation would not comment on the arrest of FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo.
But a Venezuelan soccer official, Jairo Ramirez, told The Associated Press that he has full faith in the innocence of arrested FIFA official Rafael Esquivel.
6:10 p.m. (1610 GMT, 12:10 p.m. EDT)
The Swiss Justice Ministry says six of the seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich in a U.S. corruption probe plan to fight being extradited to the U.S.
The legal battles started in court hearings Wednesday in Zurich, hours after the officials' early morning arrests on a U.S. warrant.
U.S. officials said those arrested include FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay; 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.
Swiss officials did not name the person who agreed to pursue simplified extradition. That person could be handed over to U.S. authorities immediately.
5:25 p.m. (1525 GMT, 11:25 a.m. EDT)
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says investigators have found $110 million in bribes linked to the planning of the 2016 Copa America soccer tournament, which is being held in the U.S. for the first time.
Lynch said Wednesday that was just one example of a raft of corrupt schemes prosecutors say have tarred soccer and its worldwide governing body, FIFA. U.S. prosecutors have unveiled racketeering and other charges against 14 people. Seven FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday in Zurich.
Lynch says the schemes involved officials at both soccer's North American governing entity, known as CONCACAF, and its South American counterpart, called CONMEBOL.
4:45 p.m. (1445 GMT, 10:45 a.m. EDT)
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says bribery and corruption have been marring soccer for at least 24 years as FIFA officials solicited bribes from sports marketing firms and others surrounding its marque events.
Lynch spoke Wednesday in New York as federal charges were unveiled against 14 people in a sweeping investigation of FIFA. Seven FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday in Zurich. Swiss prosecutors, meanwhile, announced criminal proceedings Wednesday into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Lynch says, beginning in 1991, those involved "corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves ... They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament."
4:15 p.m. (1415 GMT, 10:15 a.m. EDT)
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan says the arrests of seven FIFA officials in Zurich show that the world soccer body needs new leadership.
Prince Ali is the only candidate challenging FIFA chief Sepp Blatter in FIFA's presidential election Friday — an election that the 79-year-old Blatter is expected to win handily for a fifth term.
Prince Ali says "we cannot continue with the crisis in FIFA."
The prince said "FIFA needs leadership that governs, guides and protects our national associations. ... Leadership that restores confidence in the hundreds of millions of football fans around the world."
FIFA says the presidential election will still go ahead.
3 p.m. (1300 GMT, 9 a.m. EDT)
Four men have already pleaded guilty in the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
U.S. officials say guilty pleas were also given by Daryan Warner and Daryll Warner, 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. U.S. officials say Hawilla has agreed to forfeit over $151 million.
They face maximum jail terms of incarceration of 20 years, U.S. officials say.
2:40 p.m. (1240 GMT, 8:40 a.m. EDT)
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.
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.
1:50 p.m. (1150 GMT, 7:50 a.m. EDT)
FIFA says there will be no re-vote for the 2018 and the 2022 World Cup host nations.
That announcement came Wednesday — the same day that 7 FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich on a U.S. arrest warrant, the FBI raided the headquarters of the soccer body CONCACAF in Miami Beach and Swiss authorities announced a criminal investigation related to the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference in Zurich that "Russia and Qatar will be played."
1:15 p.m. (1115 GMT, 7:15 a.m. EDT)
FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio says FIFA President Sepp Blatter "is calm" after the arrests of seven soccer officials in Zurich by Swiss authorities.
U.S. officials issued a warrant for the arrests of nine FIFA officials and Swiss authorities arrested seven of them early Wednesday in Zurich, where hundreds of soccer officials have gathered for the world soccer body's annual Congress. Blatter was not arrested and is running for a fifth term as president on Friday.
De Gregorio told a hastily called news conference that Blatter "is very calm, he sees what is happening, he is fully cooperating."
The spokesman says "the stress factor is a little bit higher than it was yesterday ... but he (Blatter) knows he was not involved."
De Gregorio said FIFA's presidential election — which Blatter is expected to win — will take place as scheduled on Friday.
12:55 p.m. (1055 GMT, 6:55 a.m. EDT)
U.S. authorities say two current FIFA vice presidents are among the seven soccer officials arrested and detained in Zurich by Swiss police at the request of U.S. authorities.
The U.S. Department of Justice says FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay were arrested early Wednesday at the lakeside Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich.
The others arrested included Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil. All seven are connected with the regional soccer confederations of North and South America.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement Wednesday that "the indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States."
12:35 p.m. (1035 GMT, 6:35 a.m. EDT)
FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio says it's no surprise that Swiss authorities have made arrests in relation to a corruption probe involving the world soccer body. He says it's only a surprise that the arrests came Wednesday.
De Gregorio says FIFA itself turned over to Swiss judicial authorities last November the report by investigator Michael Garcia into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. So he said the arrests were "the consequences of what we initiated."
Six soccer officials were arrested early Wednesday in Zurich by Swiss authorities relating to a U.S. corruption probe. Hours later, Swiss federal prosecutors announced they have opened separate criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
12:05 p.m. (1005 GMT, 6:05 a.m. EDT)
FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio told reporters at a news conference that "FIFA is the damaged party" after two major legal developments erupted early Wednesday in Zurich, home to FIFA, the world soccer body.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not among those arrested and is running for a re-election this week.
11:41 a.m. (0941 GMT, 5:41 a.m. EDT)
The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating the individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and now.
"The bribery suspects — representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms — are alleged to have been involved in schemes to make payments to the soccer functionaries (FIFA delegates) and other functionaries of FIFA sub-organizations — totaling more than USD 100 million," the FOJ statement said. "In return, it is believed that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America."
11:30 a.m. (0930 GMT, 5:30 a.m. EDT)
Swiss federal prosecutors have opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, throwing FIFA deeper into crisis only hours after six soccer officials were arrested in a separate U.S. corruption probe.
The Swiss prosecutors' office said in a statement they seized "electronic data and documents" at FIFA's headquarters on Wednesday as part of their probe. And Swiss police said they will question 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.
The Swiss investigation against "persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering" throws into the doubt the integrity of the voting to award Russia the 2018 World Cup and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
The announcement came only hours after six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich. FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not among them.
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