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U.S. Justice Department Indicts Six in FIFA Corruption Probe. Aired 11:00a-12:00p ET
Aired May 27, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:26:52] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Thank you very much indeed, Robyn. Thank you.
Welcome to the show.
They corrupted worldwide football to serve their own interests and enrich themselves over an over, year after year, those words from the U.S.
Justice Department laying out its stunning case against 14 people including nine FIFA officials.
It says they fostered, and I quote, a culture of corruption and greed through, as Robyn said, rampant bribes and kickbacks.
Swiss authorities have arrested seven people in connection with these indictments, including a FIFA vice president. They are also conducting a
separate investigation into alleged corruption involving the last two World Cup bids 2018 and 2022.
Alex Thomas following these developments from Zurich for you.
We knew, Alex, that the U.S. Justice Department was conducting an investigation into those governing the game, but it's the scale and the
seriousness of these allegations greater than anything than we have seen before, which seems so shocking.
We've been warned this is only just the beginning. Many people will be asking why this has taken so long.
ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The news conference we've just been playing to CNN viewers, Becky, live here on this channel, has
certainly been the most blockbuster of all the evidence and details we've heard on an extraordinary day for the world's most popular sport.
And it was all led off by Loretta Lynch, the United States attorney general. And remember that while it is the world's most popular sport,
football, or soccer, wherever you are in the world and like to describe it, is certainly not number one in the United States.
So she started her remarks by really explaining why they've committed so many years and so many resources to this investigation, because they
claim, Becky, that the very officials at the very top of the game have essentially betrayed the sport.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Now many of the individuals and organizations we will describe today were entrusted with keeping soccer
open and accessible to all. They held important responsibilities at every level, from building soccer fields for children in developing countries, to
organizing the World Cup. They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest and to protect the integrity of the game. Instead, they
corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS: And the allegations, Becky, kept on coming and coming. Absolutely extraordinary detail, specifically mentioning the bidding
process for the 2010 World Cup. This was the first World Cup ever to be held on the continent of Africa. It went to South Africa. And the
allegations from the U.S. Department of Justice were that that was a corrupt hosting decision, funded by bribes. And it also casts dispersions
as regards the last FIFA presidential vote in 2011, the next one by the way, is here in the building behind me in two days time.
So extraordinary timing. Jeffrey Webb was mentioned, the head of CONCACAF, the region that controls football in North and Central America
and the Caribbean, seen as a rising star of administration in the world of football, perhaps not anymore.
But certainly the best line came from the head of the IRS in the United States who talked about it being a World Cup of fraud and that they
are issuing a red card to FIFA, Becky.
[08:30:30] ANDERSON: This case isn't about football, it's about felons, he said.
We're talking decades of corruption, Alex. That as we have quoted America's top justice official, is systemic and deep-rooted. How does the
organization recover from this?
THOMAS: Well, Sepp Blatter has been football's equivalent of the Teflon Don. He's seen many scandals during his 17 year reign as FIFA
president. He was elected in 1998. And he's still the favorite if the next election process goes ahead in two days time in the building behind me
to be elected to a fifth term in office at the age of 79.
He's really popular within the game, Becky, because he's made FIFA richer than ever. The organization enjoys record revenues. It's got a
record surplus and more than $1.5 billion. And even the smallest nation takes a share of hundreds, millions of dollars in development funds every
year. And it's the 209 global soccer bosses that are flown here to Switzerland to vote who matter. They each get one vote. And it doesn't
matter that Blatter and FIFA's reputation has been dragged been through the mud, because the fans in the media don't vote, it's football officials that
do. And most of them outside of Europe still believe Blatter is the man for them.
ANDERSON: All right, Alex, thank you for that. Alex Thomas there in Zurich in Switzerland.
Just a short time ago, we heard from the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI outlining the charges against some of FIFA's top officials accused
of accepting millions of dollars in bribes over decades.
Our Justice correspondent Evan Perez was at the news conference and he joins me now.
Some quite startling information coming from a slew of people on the stand today, not least the IRS, calling this a case not about football, but
a case about felons and fraud, Evan.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, that's one of the key parts of this case is that the IRS began this investigation simply because
one of the officials involved in this alleged fraud didn't pay his taxes. Chuck Blazer became a cooperator with this investigation with the IRS and
the FBI. He wore a wire -- he recorded conversations between himself and some of the key officials that are now facing charges in this
In all, there are 14 people that have been indicted. It was a surreal scene in there with about more than 100 cameras from around the world,
because of the keen interest, as you might imagine around the world into this case. There's been rumors and allegations of corruption inside FIFA
for so many years. The U.S. says that they are simply sending a message that this corruption cannot continue.
ANDERSON: We certainly heard this is only just the beginning. What more can we expect at this point?
PEREZ: Well, you know, one of the names that's missing form this indictment is Sepp Blatter himself, the leader, the king of world soccer
right now. And so that's been the top of everybody's mind is what happens to him, because now we have not only the current vice president of FIFA,
but the former vice president who is also facing indictment in this case.
And so now all week we've heard from officials is that the investigation is continuing. We know that the Swiss are taking a look at
the 2018 and 2022 World cup bids and how those were awarded, which is how this investigation partly began. There was a lot of rumors about, and
allegations, about the rigging of the votes in the way the U.S. lost 2022 to Qatar World Cup bid.
And so now they say that they're going to continue investigating individuals and entities around the world. They are looking for help from
other countries to help with this investigation, Becky.
ANDERSON: Evan, thank you.
All right. Well, the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says those charged in the FIFA corruption scandal violated the trust of fans all over
the world. You just heard what she said in that news conference just a little earlier.
So let's bring in James Piercy, deputy editor of Sport 360 here in Abu Dhabi.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter not being personally accused in this, in either investigation. As Evan rightly pointed out. He has his fair share
of critics, though, including Diego Maradona.
Earlier this month, I spoke to the sporting legend who says international football at every level has been damaged by FIFA behaving
like, quote, a mafia. Have a listen to what he said.
[11:35:34] DIEGO MARADONA, ARGENTINE FOOTBALL LEGEND (through translator): They used a lot of corruption inside FIFA. But the hope is
that Blatter's friends can see that in all these years, since 1998, he hasn't done anything good for football.
The kids in Africa, for example, I was talking to Samuel Eto and he told me that they are playing on the same old pitch where he used to play
when he was 7-years-old. So, after all the World Cups, what's happened to all the money that was collected?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: And this was specifically what the attorney general was eluding to earlier today, wasn't it, Piercy?
JAMES PIERCY, DEPUTY EDITOR, SPORTS 360: Absolutely. I mean, they've gone for the emotive line, something with that accusation.
I mean, FIFA an organization they tend to put their head in the sand. You know, there's been accusations down the years, down the decades -- Sepp
Blatter himself, you know, continually gets elected despite corruption allegations against people very close to him.
If they didn't think was serious, they certainly do now obviously with some of the language used, things like the World Cup, fraud, 20 year prison
sentences. You know, this is unprecedented in terms of investigating FIFA. And as Alex Thomas touched on as well, the fact that this is the Americans
coming for you, this is the FBI, this is big league stuff.
And this is something that certainly Sepp Blatter as the head of the organization has never really had to deal with. Certainly there is no
implication that he's involved in any way, but there's people who have been arrested who have been spoken to, who are exceptionally close to him.
Jeffrey Webb we spoke about. He's been discussed as a possible successor to Sepp when he steps down, whenever that may be. And it's certainly in a
position now where FIFA have to be worried about what's happening here.
ANDERSON: And it's a multi-billion dollar operation, as we are want to remind people again and again and again. As this story has hit the
headlines again and again and again. Not quite as shockingly as it has today.
There is an election for the president on Friday. Sepp Blatter was going to watched it effectively. Will he now? Will it be held, I guess is
the first question?
PIERCY: Well, as it stands at least as of today it will be held. Whether or not that changed based on the press conference we just heard, I
don't know. But, yes, I still think Sepp Blatter will get elected. He's been elected before amid...
ANDERSON: It's remarkable.
PIERCY: Of course it is.
ANDERSON: Somebody needs to be accountable for their staff, surely?
PIERCY: There is that. I mean...
ANDERSON: Their behavior.
PIERCY: There's an element of -- you know, the delegates within FIFA have got to look at this. They've got to stand back. They've got to look
at what's happened today. They go over the reaction of the world. They've going the FBI are investigating us. This place should be governing a
sports -- we're governing a sport here. They've got to step back and they think if Sepp Blatter gets in front of the four years, what are another
four years going to bring?
You know, this is the man -- he hasn't necessarily done anything, but he has allowed individuals within this organization to constantly break the
law. And at some stage, you know, the buck has to stop with him.
ANDERSON: Diego Maradona is supporting -- very briefly, because we're going to take a break, but Diego Maradona supporting and Sepp Blatter's
opposition in this presidential election, that is Prince Ali of Jordan.
When I spoke to him the other day, he says that there is simply no transparency in FIFA. He referred to it as a mafia.
Will today's twin investigation, do you think, be the start of a new era?
PIERCY: Well, think it needs to change from the top. I mean, look at the two investigations. Certainly, the American side of it seems the more
serious. But I take the Swiss -- with all due respect to the Swiss authorities, I take that with a pinches of salt given the fact it's FIFA
who have prompted that investigation. Given it to them, they've made the complaint in November.
Sepp Blatter seems based on the press conference you saw earlier in the day in Zurich, that seems to be controllable from FIFA's point of view.
They don't seem to be particularly worried about this American one. That's out of jurisdiction. They don't really know what's happening there.
So, I think we have to look at quite a long way down the line, but certainly there needs to be change right across the board from the top
You know, there are some good people in FIFA. There are some good people who want to do good things for the game. These people need to come
to the top.
ANDERSON: People have said it's a sad day, but to a certain extent their kind of removing themselves from -- and saying, you know, we wanted
this to happen. We had to flush everybody out. And now we can move on. One wonders whether they will be able to.
I'm going to take a very short break. Back, viewers, after this. We get more on our top story. FIFA finds itself in the middle of not one, but
two corruption probes.
The FIFA investigation has been going on for three years with charges ranging from money laundering to fraud and racketeering. U.S. officials
say the offenses committed over a 24 year period. So, who are those behind the charges? More on that coming up.
[11:42:24] ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. This is CNN. Our top story this hour, a short time ago the U.S.
attorney general wrapped up a news conference announcing corruption charges against 14 people, including nine FIFA officials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNCH: Used their positions of trust within their respective organizations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the
commercial rights to their soccer tournaments. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, that was the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She spoke just a short time ago in New York about the U.S. probe into
alleged FIFA corruption.
This is the footballing world's governing body of course.
The FBI is charging 14 people with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
But those aren't the only allegations that FIFA is facing today. On another front, world football's governing body found itself in the middle
of a Swiss investigation into World Cup bidding.
Well, Jerome Champagne is a former FIFA presidential candidate and joins me now from Zurich.
Sir, are you as surprised and shocked as the rest of us by what you have learned today?
JEROME CHAMPAGNE, FRM. FIFA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Surprised? Not really. I mean, I was definitely among the persons who were expecting that
something would surface just before the election. We were thinking about maybe some parts and excerpts of Mr. Garcia's report would be leaked. We
were expecting some elements like that.
But definitely it's not a surprise. It's something which was expected even though no one was known that it would happen.
ANDERSON: This is racketeering, corruption, not football, they say, but felony and fraud. You know this organization, you've been on the
inside. You've tried to get your foot in the door so far as running this organization is concerned. I mean, do things get worse? Are we going to
learn more? Certainly in the U.S. they say this has only just begun.
CHAMPAGNE: First, Becky, I welcome this investigation. I think we need to know. And no stone should remain unturned.
But these are very important things supporting democracy that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. And far from me to rush to judgment
because of the insistence of the document.
The second point I want to stress, and it was part of my campaign platform when I was a candidate, for example, if you look at your title,
FIFA officials with corruption.
But if you look at the case, which has been exposed by the Department of Justice, they all mention confederation officials who are in FIFA in
positions, because they have been elected at their continental level.
If you look at the competitions where this racketeering is allegedly to have happened, it's always confederation, continental competition.
If you look at some of the elements, which are for example, the equipment of the (inaudible) national team that are famous, American
equipment company, once again it's a competition and a contract negotiator at the national level.
What is very important is people need to understand that the FIFA government, the executive committee, is not composed by the FIFA congress
and the national associations, but is basically controlled by the confederations. And when you say FIFA officials, you should basically say
rather confederation officials who are in the FIFA (inaudible) because they hold a continental position, not the other way around.
ANDERSON: Well, Jerome, we're looking at pictures of a press conference held by FIFA itself earlier on today, and the spokesman who said
this was a very sad day, words echoed, by the way, by Sepp Blatter's opponent for president Prince Ali of Jordan today.
You know, it clearly is a very sad day for the world of football.
But he went on to welcome what was happening and said that this would be a good day. You know going forward, things would improve at FIFA.
We've been discussing whether FIFA as the body as we know it can carry on, can it survive this? Can it?
CHAMPAGNE: Yeah, I think it is not a good and a bad day, it's a necessary day. And for the ones who are I would say piggy backing this
investigation in order to gain votes, I think it's not the right level.
I know you have shown some statements regarding Maradona, but I want to stress the fact that Maradona is seeking personal revenge against Mr.
Blatter when the time when he was general of the country of the FIFA World Cup in 1994 in the U.S. refused to hide under the carpet Mr. Maradona's
So, it's a personal revenge, and definitely Maradona was an amazing player, but not someone who gave a fantastic image of the game himself.
But it's not the issue.
What is necessary is that people should understand how FIFA functions. And when I was a candidate I was somewhat advocating for reforms, in
particular to make the government of FIFA less controlled by the confederations.
To give you an example, it's as if, for example, President Obama would have had to govern in his first mandate in his cabinet in the White House
with people such as Senator of Arizona John McCain having been defeated and seeking revenge and already (inaudible) preparing himself.
That's why the FIFA executive committee is not really the government of FIFA, but a place where I used to say that the president of the
confederations exchange their local vote.
And if you look at who has been indicted by the Department of Defense, all they have been accused of has been done at confederation level.
ANDERSON: Somebody asked me -- very briefly -- somebody asked me earlier on today is this the end of FIFA. And I said well there's no real
alternative. And then I wondered whether there could be an alternative going forward.
You've just suggested, Jerome, how the organization might be better run going forward. But why have we not just be better off scrapping the
whole thing and starting again?
CHAMPAGNE: No. I think -- it's in my views -- and I may be wrong, it's not the solution.
I think, you know, President Blatter would be elected Friday on -- with a huge margin. The ones who are trying to, as I said, piggy back this
investigation to gain a few votes will see the reality on Friday and I'm not defaming anyone, just the fact which has been also commented by your
But what I'm saying I do (inaudible) that Mr. Blatter once reelected to some extent freed from any electoral constraint will launch himself in
the reforms FIFA and football needs.
Because if you look at what has happened in the past months, the so- called campaign, we have not discussed a central issue of the game, which is the huge growth of inequalities in the game between the 1 percent of
minority and the 99 percent of football.
For example, if you look at players, the problem of players is not the salary of Maradona -- of Messi, or Christiano Renaldo, it's 99 percent of
players who are either badly paid or not paid.
Look at the growth of inequality in football between the continents. There's more money in African football than 20 years ago, but the gap with
Europe has increased.
Look at what has happened in Europe, 25 years ago football was (inaudible), now it's divided by a financial (inaudible) which 20 -- the 20
wealthiest clubs and the rest of the world, 20 wealthiest clubs with the cumulative turnover of 6.2 billion euros while the rest of the world is
So, this is very important what has happened today and I welcome this investigation. But at the same time, we need to focus on the real issues
of the game, which is the incredibly important growth of inequalities within the game.
[11:50:11] ANDERSON: Sure.
With that, sir, we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much indeed for joining us on what is quite a momentous day for the footballing
world and its governing body.
The U.S. says the investigation is continuing, and we are getting global reaction to the FIFA arrests now.
Shasta Darlington is in Brazil where the last World Cup was held.
First, though, Matthew Chance is in Russia, home, of course, to the next World Cup in 2018 and just after this morning we heard that the U.S.
Justice Department was going to carry out these raids on this hotel where these FIFA executives were in Zurich.
We hear a criminal investigation being opened up by the Swiss themselves into no less than these -- this bidding process for the 2018
What's the reaction there?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's shock. I mean, to summarize it very briefly. I mean, the Russians aren't
directly involved in this criminal investigation we heard the FBI speak about and you were speaking about with your guests there.
The -- they've not been arrested. There's -- nobody from Russia has been arrested.
But shortly afterwards, there was that second investigation, which is potentially just as serious that was announced not by the U.S. authorities,
but by the Swiss authorities into the awarding, the allocation of the World Cups in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.
The spreadsheet, the charge sheet, rather, from the Attorney General's office in Switzerland saying that they're looking into money laundering and
alleged criminal mismanagement in the allotment of those World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar.
It says that at least 10 people are wanted to be questioned by the Swiss authorities in connection with any criminal conduct, one of them is
the Russian sports minister, according to a source I've spoken to with knowledge of the investigation of vitaly Mutko.
And so this is something that has potentially very serious consequences.
ANDERSON: Thank you, Matthew.
Let's get you to Brazil, home of course of the last World Cup. None of us are going to forget that fantastic month.
A great footballing nation, a nation that absolutely adores what is an -- or seems to be always played by their team as a beautiful game.
Shasta, reaction there?
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, here I'd say it's just the opposite, they're not surprised. And that's because
Brazilian footballing organizers have been accused of corruption for decades now. Perhaps the only surprise here is that people are actually
being arrested, among those arrested, of course, was a former president of the Brazilian footballing confederation, Jose Maria Marin. He's in his 80s
now, was president from 2012 to 2014.
But we just have to go back a few more years to remember that Joao Havelange, who was the president of FIFA itself for more than two decades,
then he was the honorary president, well, he resigned in 2013 accused of bribery.
At the same time, also accused of bribery was his son-in-law Ricardo Texeira who was a former president of the Brazilian footballing
So, unfortunately there have been a lot investigations here and abroad involving Brazilian footballing organizers in bribery.
Again, the big surprise is that somebody is actually going to jail.
I think what could also come out of this that could be a bit more shocking for the Brazilian public are these investigations into the impact
of this -- these alleged bribery scandals on the tournaments here. We're talking about the Copa de Libertadores, Copa America, what happened there,
how did it impact those cups. Was it really just a commercial deal, or did it in any way impact the games themselves, and I think that's what a lot of
Brazilian and Latin American fans will be paying close attention to, Becky.
ANDERSON: Shasta Darlington is in Brazil.
James Piercy is still with me here from the local sports newspaper here. And we've been talking about what we've heard out of the U.S. today
and also out of the Swiss opening a criminal investigation into the bidding process into the 2018, 2022 games -- World Cup. And of course the
potential for any damage to Sepp Blatter's reputation as he walks into a presidential election again on Friday for FIFA.
You say, and everybody else seems to be telling me tonight, is going to walk here.
PIERCY: Yeah, well I don't question (inaudible) because there's no competition. I mean, Prince Ali I don't think is quite had a strong enough
campaign. I don't think he's quite campaigned on what he should have been doing, which is exactly the sort of thing you've seen today, the anti-
Looking ahead, I mean we've mentioned about the World Cups. I mean, I've said it before, it's interesting with Sepp Blatter is of course he
doesn't want -- necessarily want the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. He's always wanted it in America. I don't know how much this probe might end up
seeing that happen. We'll wait and see.
But from Blatter's point of view, we're told he's relaxed. We're told he's not dancing around the office. He's probably -- you know, the truth
is probably somewhere in between.
I think we'll see on Friday.
Personally, I don't -- I think it's ridiculous the election should go ahead, especially when you've got six delegates who would be voting who
aren't going to be -- we assume they're not going to be there. Six people as well who would likely to be voting for Sepp Blatter as well.
We're told that there's some sort of rumors that he may be trying to put the election off. I think that would be certainly a wise thing to do PR
But should it go ahead, should he get elected, I think the credibility of FIFA -- I mean, I don't think it can get much lower.
[11:55:54] ANDERSON: Well, that's the point, isn't it? It can't get much lower, so surely this is the opportunity to say, look, we've swept out
the baddies, you know, it wasn't me, Jack. I'm moving on. I'm still president. Here's a new era.
Is he able to do that, though? I mean, this is a man who has been in the job, what, this would be his -- fifth time of asking.
PIERCY: Fifth time. He hasn't got that...
ANDERSON: Is it realistic he can clean the place up if he sort of hold his hands up?
PIERCY: Well, he's been very (inaudible) before. You're correspondent in Brazil and Ricardo Texeira, Joao Havelange, these are guys
who -- you know, Blatter succeeded Joao Havelange. He was incredibly close (inaudible). He was on the American indictment today. These are allies of
him. These were -- this was his power base in South America, and yet they've (inaudible) seems like they've gone yet he's still the man
I mean, at one stage Mohamed bin Hammam was a great ally of his. He's gone.
You know, you can go on in terms of the -- Jack Warner is another one. He's gone.
Sepp Blatter is always the one standing. And there's a reason for that. He knows how to play this game. He knows how to work it. Whether
or not he knows how to play the game with the FBI we'll wait to see.
ANDERSON: Well, he hasn't been named in any indictment. He's certainly not part of this U.S. Justice Department probe that is so
shocking on its release today, nor is he, as we understand it, named in any of the criminal proceedings that the Swiss have opened up.
Tomorrow is another day.
PIERCY: Yes. I mean, as head of his organization he needs to -- I mean, I still think he should have said something today. I know why he
didn't, obviously, but as head of the organization there needs to be a statement from him, there needs to be clarification on what the issues are.
ANDERSON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.
What do you think about the latest scandal to hit FIFA? Thoughts? Facebook.com/CNNConnect, you know that. @BeckyCNN is how you find me on
For the time being, from us at least here, that is it. But CNN continues after this short break. Do not go away.