Public Law

It has been widely reported today that seven FIFA officials, including vice-president Jeffrey Webb, have been arrested on suspicion of corruption following a dawn raid in Zurich.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) stated that the arrests are based on allegations that the officials accepted bribes worth more than $100 million over a 20 year period.

The DoJ also alleged that representatives of sports media and sports promotion firms have been involved in schemes to make payments to the FIFA officials.

It is alleged that they received media, marketing, and sponsorship rights in return, in connection with football tournaments in Latin America.

According to the Swiss authorities, who carried out the arrests at the request of the DoJ, it is alleged that the offences were agreed to and prepared in the US via US bank accounts.

That would support the DoJ’s claim to jurisdiction for the prosecution of the alleged offences and would support the request for extradition of the six officials from Switzerland to the US.

In a related development, it has also been reported that the Swiss authorities are carrying out a separate investigation into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

International Investigation

FIFA’s Ethics Committee closed its own internal investigation into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups last year stating its investigation found no corruption and no reason to reopen the bidding process.

Earlier today a FIFA spokesman confirmed that the FIFA investigation report had been handed over to the Swiss authorities.

The pro-active approach adopted by the US authorities in this case is consistent with their general stance towards investigating suspected corruption on an international scale.

Where there is a basis for asserting jurisdiction the US authorities will not hesitate to do so. The DoJ had already secured guilty pleas from four other individuals and two companies in connection with the alleged offences before today’s raid.

That is also consistent with their approach to investigating and prosecuting corruption where the cooperation of individuals implicated in the criminal conduct is encouraged.

Ramsay Hall

Associate at Brodies LLP
Ramsay is a solicitor in the firm’s Government, Regulation and Competition team. He has advocacy experience in both civil and criminal litigation and acts for a wide range of public and private sector clients in the Court of Session and the Sheriff Courts. Ramsay also provides public law advice on freedom of information, human rights, statutory interpretation and the powers of the Scottish Parliament.