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International soccer officials corrupted their global game by taking millions of dollars in bribes for sponsorship and event hosting, U.S. officials said Wednesday morning.
The U.S. Justice Department announced the charges against the FIFA executives—which include alleged racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud offenses—and unsealed a 47-count indictment as well as several previously secret guilty pleas. U.S. authorities said nine soccer officials and five sports media and promotions executives faced corruption charges involving more than $150 million in bribes.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the charges.
"They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest and to protect the integrity of the game, instead they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves," Lynch said of the officials.
As an example of this alleged corruption, she said the U.S. investigation found the 2016 Copa America was "used as a vehicle" to earn executives $110 million in bribes. That tournament is scheduled to be held in the United States—its first time outside of cities in South America, Lynch said.
The attorney general alleged that such corruption took place "tournament after tournament."
Lynch said the indictment alleges that such actions extended to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2011 FIFA presidential elections.
Several top-ranking international soccer officials were arrested Wednesday morning in Switzerland for U.S. extradition.
FIFA, international soccer's governing body, is often cited as "scandal-plagued" and corrupt following years of reports detailing kickbacks and bribes. FIFA recorded more than $2 billion in revenue last year, and total multi-year revenue linked to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil came in at more than $4.8 billion, the organization said in its annual financial report.