News 27th May 2015

FIFA provisionally suspends individuals under investigation

FIFA’s independent Ethics Committee has provisionally suspended all individuals named in separate actions taken today by the US Department of Justice and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) against alleged embezzlement in football. ‘Following the events of today, the independent Ethics Committee – which is in the midst of its own proceedings regarding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups – took swift action to provisionally ban those individuals named by the authorities from any football-related activities at the national and international level’, read a statement issued by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter this evening.

The suspensions mean that a number of FIFA officials – including three Executive Committee members – will not be present to vote in decisions taken at the FIFA Congress, which FIFA earlier today said would be going ahead as planned on 28-29 May. It is unclear how the suspensions will affect the FIFA Presidential election, as it is understood that a number of the suspended officials were expected to attend the FIFA Congress as representatives of the 209 FIFA member associations.

‘Each FIFA member has one vote in the Congress electing the FIFA President’, reads Article 17.3 of the Electoral Regulations for the FIFA Presidency. ‘Only the FIFA members present are entitled to vote (cf. Art. 23 para. 1 of the FIFA Statutes)’. FIFA’s Standing Orders of the Congress, on p.71 of its Statutes, mandate that national associations may send three representatives to Congress, whose flights and accommodation will be funded by FIFA.

The current FIFA officials understood to be provisionally suspended are Jeffrey Webb, FIFA Vice President and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) President; Eduardo Li, FIFA Executive Committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) President; Julio Rocha, Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) President; Costas Takkas, current attaché to the CONCACAF President; Eugenio Figueredo, FIFA Vice President and Uruguay football association (AUF) President; Rafael Esquivel, CONMEBOL Executive Committee member and Venezuelan football federation (FVF) President; and José Maria Marin, member of the FIFA organising committee for Olympic football tournaments. It is understood that support for current President Blatter is strongest amongst the African FIFA member associations.

Earlier today, the DoJ named nine current and former FIFA officials in a 47-count indictment against 14 individuals in total. The Swiss OAG separately said that it had opened criminal proceedings against ‘persons unknown’ – presumably, FIFA has been unable to suspend these individuals.

FIFA formed its independent Ethics Committee in 2012 – which it funds – after a 2010 pledge to investigate allegations of corruption during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups. It also approved a new Code of Ethics at the same time. It was this Code of Ethics which prevented FIFA from publishing the report drawn up by the independent FIFA Ethics Committee into the allegations of corruption it had pledged to investigate in 2010.

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