By David Amoruso
The FBI dealt a huge blow to one of the world’s most corrupt “legitimate” organizations, yesterday, when it charged nine officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies after they enriched themselves through the corruption of soccer and its most prestigious tournament, the World Cup. FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, however, managed to escape indictment, for now.
How he achieved this is anyone’s guess. Journalists and officials have compiled plenty of evidence of corrupt behavior by Blatter, but were unable to make anything stick in court. Until now, perhaps.
Blatter enforces a strict code of silence within FIFA and has a large following of loyalists eager for another payday. Unfortunately for him, his underlings are greedier than he thought. One of them, Charles Blazer, the long-serving former general secretary of CONCACAF and former U.S.
representative on the FIFA executive committee, was caught by the FBI in an unrelated scheme and was given the choice to cooperate or go to prison. Blazer spilled his guts and taped numerous meetings and conversations with corrupt FIFA members.
And FIFA has many of those corrupt members scheming round the clock.
Several alleged schemes relate to the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election. That election was won by current FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who, a FIFA spokesperson told reporters yesterday, was “relaxed and calm.”
It’s the typical reaction reporters and the public have come to expect from Blatter. After decades of scheming around the world without any crackdown by law enforcement, he grew more arrogant by the minute. Never was this clearer then when he awarded the 2018 World Cup tournament to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Playing soccer in the middle of the summer in the heat of Qatar? Let’s just agree that FIFA officials were blinded by the Qatar sun and millions of dollar bills.
And regarding Russia, well, Blatter had decided on that one somewhere around 2005 when he had a cozy meeting and a few bottles of expensive booze at the trendy China Club in Moscow with Russian Mafia boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov (that's him on the far right toasting with Blatter on the far left.)
Tokhtakhounov was officially there in his role as chairman of the Russian Football Association, but unofficially he was there to get Russia to host the 2018 World Cup. And the one person to see about that, of course, is Sepp Blatter.
Always eager to meet new big spenders with an interest in sports, Blatter saw no problem in hanging out and drinking some booze with Tokhtakhounov. Why would he? How could he have known this was a hardcore Russian mobster?
Well, he could’ve checked the Gangsters Inc. website where a profile of Tokhtakhounov has been up since 2002 or he could have googled his name to find out he was the man who had fixed the figure ice skating competition at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and was wanted by the FBI.
Not to mention that Tokhtakhounov had been convicted in Italy of money laundering and working with the Italian Mafia and spent one year in prison there before he was released and fled to the safety of Moscow. In Russia he continued his career which revolved around racketeering and sports.
Cheers to that, you can imagine Blatter saying.
You can also imagine what the FBI must’ve been thinking when it saw the FIFA president laughing and boozing at an exclusive Moscow nightclub together with a Russian mob boss they were seeking to arrest.
“[This] should send a message that enough is enough. After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start—a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States. Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation,” stated Acting United States Attorney Currie at a press conference announcing the charges against FIFA.
Let us hope so. Since the capo di tutti capi is still out there. And I’m not talking about Russian Mafia boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Though, technically, he’s still out there as well.