ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – If you were a little confused about the 2022 soccer world cup going to Qatar, a country where it’s a gazillion degrees in the shade during the summer, well, you weren’t alone.
And, it seems, for good reason.
Swiss police arrested six top officials of FIFA, the big international football governing body.
Those six and eight others are named in a US federal indictment, the result of investigations into more than 20 years of bribes and kickbacks totaling more than 100-million dollars.
“They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest and to protect the integrity of the game,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interest and to enrich themselves.”
FBI agents also searched the Florida headquarters of FIFA affiliate CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.
US authorities say FIFA officials pocketed cash in exchange for media and marketing rights to soccer tournaments.
Swiss authorities are also looking into how Qatar came away with the 2022 World Cup over Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the United States.
FIFA’s ethics committee hired an independent investigator who couldn’t find any evidence of corruption and no reason to re-open the bidding process.
But the investigator later backed away from the findings, which opened the door for the FBI investigation that led to the federal charges.
US television networks pay billions of dollars for the right to broadcast the world cup, and US authorities say that’s what gives them the right to kick FIFA where it hurts.