The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Zurich (AFP) – The dawn detention of several FIFA leaders and a corruption raid on its headquarters on Wednesday rocked world football’s governing body two days before its leader Sepp Blatter seeks a new term.

A FIFA vice-president was among seven people arrested at the luxury Zurich hotel where they were preparing for a congress starting Thursday. All now face deportation to the United States on charges of accepting more than $100 million in bribes.

U.S. authorities said nine football officials are among 14 people facing charges over the longstanding corruption.

Separately, Swiss police seized files and emails at the FIFA headquarters as part of an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

The 2010 vote by FIFA that attributed the events has been surrounded by widespread allegations of fraud. A spokesman said Wednesday though that there was no question of changing the venues.

FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio said Blatter is not involved in the investigations and that the presidential vote would be held as planned on Friday.

“The timing is not great,” de Gregorio told reporters. But he added that “FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football.”

Blatter has been overwhelming favourite to win a fifth term at the head of the multi-billion dollar body. But the events could swing many votes.

His only challenger, Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a FIFA vice president from Jordan, called the arrests “a sad day for football.”

Prince Ali and European federation chiefs say a change of leadership is now urgently needed to save FIFA’s tainted image.

The FIFA spokesman said Blatter was “relaxed” about the future fallout from the investigation.

“He isn’t dancing in his office,” de Gregoria told reporters. “He is very, very calm, he sees what happens. He is fully cooperative with everybody.”

Swiss police gave a surprise 6:00am wake up call to FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, from the Cayman Islands, and other six officials at the luxury Baur au Lac hotel. A US Department of Justice statement said seven people were detained.

US Attorney general Loretta Lynch said the investigations “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.”

Webb is head of the CONCACAF North and Central American confederation and a longstanding ally of Blatter. US police also raided the CONCACAF headquarters in Miami.

Eduardo Li, a FIFA executive committee member from Costa Rica, and Eugenio Figueredo, president of South American football governing body Conmebol from Uruguay, were also among those detained.

Police in plain clothes took the room keys from the reception and went to the rooms of the six, the New York Times said. The operation was carried out peacefully, it added.

The Swiss justice ministry said those detained were suspected of accepting “bribes and kick-backs between the early 1990s and the present day.”

A ministry statement said that representatives of sports media and sports marketing companies allegedly paid bribes “in exchange for the media rights and the marketing rights for competitions in the United States and South America.”

The seven could agree to be extradited immediately or challenge the move in court. The US Justice Department said the detained officials could face up to 20 years in jail.

The Swiss raid on FIFA’s headquarters formally opened an investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cups that FIFA itself asked for in November.

Police are to question 10 members of the executive committee who took part in the 2010 vote while they are in Zurich for the Congress, officials said.

Qatar has strongly denied any wrongdoing linked to its bid. A former FIFA vice president from the Gulf state, Mohammed bin Hammam, was banned for life from FIFA because of corruption.

A former U.S. attorney, Michael Garcia, investigated the World Cup bids. He left FIFA because it refused to fully publish his report.

In May, Blatter denied he was a target of an FBI corruption investigation and that he had no fear of going to the United States.

He said he would probably go in 2016 for a football tournament there and to Canada next month for the Women’s World Cup.

The denial came after an ESPN television documentary said the Swiss official was afraid to go to the United States because of the FBI investigation.

Photo: AFP / Fabrice Coffrini

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

Keep reading... Show less

Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}