Six top executives of international football's (notoriously corrupt) governing body were arrested at the crack of dawn in their Zurich hotel by Swiss police acting on a US criminal corruption warrant.
Sepp Blatter, the Mr Big of international football, was not in the group of arrestees.
The Swiss-US extradition agreement gives Swiss authorities a lot of leeway in civil matters, but it's got a lot less wiggle room when it comes to criminal charges.
The charges — racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy — relate to decades of corruption. Blatter has not been cleared of wrongdoing. He is up for re-election as head of FIFA this year.
FIFA isn't just a source of corruption when it comes to pushing balls down fields. Giving the World Cup to Qatar, for example, guaranteed the enslavement of thousands of workers (many of them are from Nepal, and have been prohibited from returning home to their dying families after the quake).
When I was working at WIPO on the Broadcast Treaty, FIFA were among the top advocates for creating a new sort of copyright over non-copyrightable works, held by broadcasters who had added no creative input to the works. They're also major players in the fight against the single EU digital market.
As new accounts of bribery continued to emerge — a whistleblower who worked for the Qatar bid team claimed that several African officials were paid $1.5 million each to support Qatar — FIFA in 2012 started an investigation of the bid process. It was led by a former United States attorney, Michael J. Garcia, who spent nearly two years compiling a report. That report, however, has never been made public; instead, the top judge on the ethics committee, the German Joachim Eckert, released a summary of the report. In it, he declared that while violations of the code of ethics had occurred, they had not affected the integrity of the vote.
Within hours, Garcia had criticised Eckert's summary as incorrect and incomplete, charging that it contained "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts." Nonetheless, FIFA moved quickly to embrace the report's absolution of the bid process. Qatar World Cup officials said the review had upheld "the integrity and quality of our bid," And Russia's sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, told reporters, "I hope we will not have talk about this again."
FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges; Blatter Isn't Among Them [Matt Apuzzo, Michael S. Schmidt, William K. Rashbaum and Sam Borden/New York Times]
(Image: FIFA go home by Graeme Hodgson,
Map of the Urban Linguistic Landscape, CC-BY)