TIME Greece

Meet the One Greek Business Profiting From the Run on Banks

“Everything has its risks”

The last five years have not been kind to the nameless little shopping plaza off of Lekka Street in central Athens. One after another its shop windows have gone dark and its merchants have gone out of business, acting out in miniature the way the Greek economy has contracted under the weight of its debts. But way in the back of the dusty arcade, the cluttered shop of George Moschopoulos has never seen better days. Every corner of the place is packed with one of the few durable goods on which Greeks are still willing to splurge: safes and strongboxes with solid metal walls.

Over the past few years, several aspects of the Greek financial crisis have aligned to boost demand for these unusual appliances. For one thing, public faith in the Greek banking system has collapsed, prompting Greeks to withdraw more than one billion euros from their accounts on Friday alone. The Greek government’s desperate push to raise tax revenue has meanwhile made people question the wisdom of storing their money in safety deposit boxes, where the tax police could still seize it. And the fact that people all over Greece are stashing their savings at home has driven an epidemic of burglaries. Put all that together and a strongbox starts to seem like a good investment.

“Everything has its risks,” says Moschopoulos, who has been in the safe business for nearly 40 years, according to the licenses that hang on the wall of his shop. “If you stuff your money in the mattress, it’s a thousand percent certain you will get robbed.” The most secure option, he admits, is still a safety deposit box inside a bank vault. “But there’s always the chance that some law will get passed to investigate what’s inside all those boxes, and they could all be frozen.”

Nor is their much security for Greeks in keeping their money in a savings account. As of Monday, the Greek government imposed capital controls on the nation’s banks, limiting how much their clients can withdraw to 60 euros per day, which is hardly enough to fill up the tank of a mid-sized sedan. Long lines had formed at ATMs around Athens in anticipation of this measure, and those who managed to withdraw their savings were among the lucky ones.

Now all they have to do is keep that money safe from thieves. According to the latest figures from Eurostat, the E.U.’s main statistical agency, Greece saw the worst jump in domestic burglaries of any E.U. member in the years after the financial crisis hit. In 2012, the most recent year for which Eurostat has published data, Greek police recorded almost 88,000 cases of burglary, up 76% from fiver years earlier. Police in Poland, whose population is 3.5 times larger than that of Greece, recorded less than half as many burglaries that year.

Greek media have meanwhile reported a change in the burglars’ tactics. If before they would wait until a home was empty before breaking in to ransack the place, they now prefer to have at least one person at home during the robbery to show the intruders where the money is hidden, according to a reported published Monday in the left-wing Avgi newspaper, which cited sources in the Greek police. (The press service of the national police did not respond on Monday to TIME’s request to comment on the article’s claims.)

If the report is accurate, the thieves in Greece would seem to have found a way to crack the safes that homeowners are installing. But Moschopoulos has yet to see a drop-off in demand. In the last five years, he says, his sales have grown roughly five-fold compared to the years before the financial crisis. “The reactions of Greek people are not always logical,” he says. “They are not patient enough to wait. They panic and withdraw everything right away.” But after this week’s capital controls, it’s hard to blame them for that kind of panic. The hoarders of cash would seem to be the clever ones in Greece this week, especially if they invested in the roughly 250 euros it costs to install a safe in their bedroom wall.


Joseph Stiglitz to Greece’s Creditors: Abandon Austerity Or Face Global Fallout

Nobel laureate tells TIME that the institutions and countries that have enforced cost-cutting on Greece "have criminal responsibility"

A few years ago, when Greece was still at the start of its slide into an economic depression, the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz remembers discussing the crisis with Greek officials. What they wanted was a stimulus package to boost growth and create jobs, and Stiglitz, who had just produced an influential report for the United Nations on how to deal with the global financial crisis, agreed that this would be the best way forward. Instead, Greece’s foreign creditors imposed a strict program of austerity. The Greek economy has shrunk by about 25% since 2010. The cost-cutting was an enormous mistake, Stiglitz says, and it’s time for the creditors to admit it.

“They have criminal responsibility,” he says of the so-called troika of financial institutions that bailed out the Greek economy in 2010, namely the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. “It’s a kind of criminal responsibility for causing a major recession,” Stiglitz tells TIME in a phone interview.

Along with a growing number of the world’s most influential economists, Stiglitz has begun to urge the troika to forgive Greece’s debt – estimated to be worth close to $300 billion in bailouts – and to offer the stimulus money that two successive Greek governments have been requesting.

Failure to do so, Stiglitz argues, would not only worsen the recession in Greece – already deeper and more prolonged than the Great Depression in the U.S. – it would also wreck the credibility of Europe’s common currency, the euro, and put the global economy at risk of contagion.

So far Greece’s creditors have downplayed those risks. In recent years they have repeatedly insisted that European banks and global markets do not face any serious fallout from Greece abandoning the euro, as they have had plenty of time to insulate themselves from such an outcome. But Stiglitz, who served as the chief economist of the World Bank from 1997 to 2000, says no such firewall of protection can exist in a globalized economy, where the connections between events and institutions are often impossible to predict. “We don’t know all the linkings,” he says.

Many countries in Eastern Europe, for instance, are still heavily reliant on Greek banks, and if those banks collapse the European Union faces the risk of a chain reaction of financial turmoil that could easily spread to the rest of the global economy. “There is a lack of transparency in financial markets that makes it impossible to know exactly what the consequences are,” says Stiglitz. “Anybody who says they do obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

Over the weekend the prospect of Greece abandoning the euro drew closer than ever, as talks between the Greek government and its creditors broke down. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was elected in January on a promise to end austerity, announced on Saturday that he could not accept the troika’s “insulting” demands for more tax hikes and pension cuts, and he called a referendum for July 5 to let voters decide how the government should handle the negotiations going forward. If a majority of Greeks vote to reject the troika’s terms for continued assistance, Greece could be forced to default on its debt and pull out of the currency union.

Stiglitz sees two possible outcomes to that scenario – neither of them pleasant for the European Union. If the Greek economy recovers after abandoning the euro, it would “certainly increase the impetus for anti-euro politics,” encouraging other struggling economies to drop the common currency and go it alone. If the Greek economy collapses without the euro, “you have on the edge of Europe a failed state,” Stiglitz says. “That’s when the geopolitics become very ugly.”

By providing financial aid, Russia and China would then be able to undermine Greece’s allegiance to the E.U. and its foreign policy decisions, creating what Stiglitz calls “an enemy within.” There is no way to predict the long-term consequences of such a break in the E.U.’s political cohesion, but it would likely be more costly than offering Greece a break on its loans, he says.

“The creditors should admit that the policies that they put forward over the last five years are flawed,” says Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University.What they asked for caused a deep depression with long-standing effects, and I don’t think there is any way that Europe’s and Germany’s hands are clean. My own view is that they ought to recognize their complicity and say, ‘Look, the past is the past. We made mistakes. How do we go on from here?’”

The most reasonable solution Stiglitz sees is a write-off of Greece’s debt, or at least a deal that would not require any payments for the next ten or 15 years. In that time, Greece should be given additional aid to jumpstart its economy and return to growth. But the first step would be for the troika to make a painful yet obvious admission: “Austerity hasn’t worked,” Stiglitz says.

TIME Greece

Greeks Wrestle With Bailout Dilemma as ATM Lines Grow

It was easy to gauge the rising panic in Athens this weekend by the length of the lines at the ATMs. On Saturday, when Greeks learned that they would have to vote on the terms of their country’s bailout program in a snap referendum on July 5, clusters of people began to gather at the machines that still had cash to give. By Sunday afternoon these lines were sometimes stretching entire blocks as word spread of the government’s shocking announcement: the banks would not be allowed to open in the morning, and they would start limiting how much money their clients could withdraw.

The resulting anxiety, which would seem to herald an imminent climax in the five-year-old saga of Greece’s depression, will now form the atmosphere for next weekend’s referendum. The choice voters face is stark: They can either vote Yes to more tax hikes and pension cuts as a condition of keeping financial aid from Europe flowing, or they can vote No and reject the deal from Greece’s creditors, potentially forcing the country to default on its debts and pull out of Europe’s currency union.

For many in Athens, however, the decision came down to a simpler and more depressing question: What do we really have left to lose? Tionysis Matheakakis, who plans to vote No, says he has already hit rock bottom. When the global financial crisis first pushed Greece to the edge of bankruptcy five years ago, he lost his job as a milk truck driver at the age of 48, leaving him too old, he says, to find another job since then. Though he has no source of income, he still has to pay higher property taxes on his home, among other new levies that Greece has imposed as part of its push to raise revenue and pay back debts.

Now, the new cuts to pensions that Greece’s creditors are demanding threaten to eat away at the only steady income he sees, nine years from now, when he can legally retire. “They are squeezing us dry,” he says on the city’s Syntagma Square, where lines formed at cash machines over the weekend as the government announced the banks would not open Monday. “It’s time to break the chains,” he says.

That is the option Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras offered his demoralized electorate in the early hours of Saturday morning. In a televised address, he called for a nationwide referendum to decide whether or not Greece should accept the latest bailout terms from its so-called troika of creditors – the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

Even though the Greek economy has shrunk by a quarter in the past five years, these institutions have refused Tsipras’ demands for a reduction in debt and an easing of the Greek austerity program. Instead they are demanding further tax hikes and pension cuts as a condition of continued assistance. After five months of fraught talks, their negotiations broke down late last week, prompting Tsipras to ask his electorate how the government should proceed.

“The day of truth is coming for the creditors, the time when they will see that Greece will not surrender,” Tsipras, a self-professed radical leftist who was elected in January, told an emergency session of parliament on Saturday afternoon. “I am certain that the Greek people will rise to the historical circumstances and issue a resounding ‘No’ to the ultimatum.” The chamber, which is dominated by a coalition bent against austerity, then approved his bid to hold the referendum.

But according to early polls, Greek voters seem likely to reject the pleas of their Prime Minister. In a survey commissioned by the newspaper Proto Thema and released on Sunday, 57% of respondents said they would accept the troika’s bailout terms with a Yes vote, potentially forcing the anti-austerity government to resign and call new elections.

Nick Kontodimos, an accountant in Athens, is among the voters ready to accept the troika’s deal. The only way Greece will get its finances in order, he says, is under pressure from its European creditors, which have forced Athens to impose fiscal discipline and curb government waste for the first time in generations. “These foreign guys put the gun to our head and told us to do the most obvious things,” he says. “It’s ridiculous, but it seems like we needed this gun to our head.”

Removing it could result in disaster for Greece, especially if it abandons the euro and goes back to its previous currency, the drachma. On the upside, that would allow the government to print money and boost spending in order to stimulate growth. But inflation would then be sure to spike as the value of the drachma plummets against the euro and the dollar, making it more and more difficult for the government to afford basic imports such as oil and machinery.

Greek banks would also come under tremendous pressure. If their clients suddenly start receiving their paychecks in drachmas, many of them would be unable to repay the loans they took out in euros, forcing them to default. Already the risks of Greek banks collapsing has prompted many to pull out their savings and stash them at home — or attempt to at least, as many did over the weekend.

“We have no choice. We have to feed ourselves somehow,” said 38-year-old Antonia, who lost her job in the medical supplies business three years ago and has since been unemployed. On Sunday afternoon she was among those thronging an ATM on Syntagma Square. When asked how she would vote in the referendum, her anger at the creditors spilled out. “They’re killing us,” she seethed. “We have to break free of the constraints they have surrounded us with.”

Never mind that those constraints may the only things keeping the Greek economy afloat.

TIME France

Why the U.S.-France Spying Scandal Will Quickly Blow Over

French President Francois Hollande
Alain Jocard—AFP/Getty Images French President Francois Hollande, left, and French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius wait for the Saudi Defense Minister at the Elysee Palace in Paris, June 24, 2015.

The anger in Paris may fade as it did in Berlin

Officially, France was outraged. The nation woke up on Wednesday to the news that the U.S. had been spying on three consecutive French Presidents, including the current one, Francois Hollande, who spent the day fuming in response. He called an emergency meeting of his defense council to discuss the apparent breach. His foreign ministry called in the U.S. ambassador for an official explanation. And Hollande himself referred to the violation of trust between allies as “unacceptable.”

Incidentally, this was the same word that his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, used upon learning in 2013 how the U.S. had been tapping her cell phone. That time the revelation came from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency. Wednesday’s leak was sourced in the French media to Snowden’s allies at Wikileaks. But the reaction from the targets of the snooping was so similar that it almost seemed like a rerun, and judging by the way the Merkel phone-tapping drama has played out since it broke two years ago, the French outrage may soon fizzle into complacency as well.

The reason is that, in the modern world, every country seems to spy to the extent of its ability. As the German public learned this spring, their country’s intelligence service, the BND, had for years been helping its American counterpart, the NSA, spy on targets across Europe, including major corporations like Airbus and–you guessed it–the French presidency. That bombshell, which was first published in the German weekly Der Spiegel, made it much harder for Chancellor Merkel to play the innocent victim of nefarious U.S. surveillance.

It also made it difficult on Wednesday for the French government to act completely flabbergasted. Although Prime Minister Manuel Valls insisted that “the emotion and the anger” in France on Wednesday were “legitimate,” he admitted in the same breath that the revelations may not “constitute a real surprise for anyone.”

His government’s spokesman, Stephane Le Foll, even let slip a telling bit of humor when asked how France might retaliate against the U.S. for spying on French Presidents. “We sent the Hermione,” Le Foll told reporters, referring to the replica of an old naval frigate that France sent as a gift to the U.S. in March, loaded with barrels of Hennessy cognac. That ship was meant to be a symbol of how deep the ties run between these two nations–the original Hermione brought the French General Lafayette to help the Americans win their independence from the British in 1780–and Le Foll’s remark hinted that those ties wouldn’t be forgotten amid the latest spying scandal.

As Germany’s experience suggests, no real rupture in relations comes out of these scandals, at least in part because the Europeans rely on the U.S. not only for trade but security and the sharing of intelligence. That doesn’t mean the Germans simply let the matter drop. German media have reported that the the BND has curtailed cooperation with its American peers and the German parliament is still investigating Snowden’s leaked evidence that the U.S. had illegally monitored the communications of millions of German citizens. But Berlin’s probe into the tapping of Merkel’s phone has quietly been put aside. On June 12, the German prosecutor’s office announced in a statement that it was dropping the investigation due to lack of evidence: “The accusation cannot be proven in a legally sound way under criminal law.”

The U.S. had refused to provide the Germans with anything more than “vague statements” about tapping Merkel’s phone. More precisely, the U.S. said at the time that it is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the Chancellor,” pointedly avoiding any reference to what it had or had not done in the past. Adding to the sense of déjà vu, practically the same statement came on Wednesday from a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council in response to the firestorm in France: the U.S. is “not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande,” said the spokesman, Ned Price.

Perhaps that could be taken as a promise that, having been busted spying on its allies, the U.S. would now cut it out, at least when it comes to the heads of state of Germany and France. As for the other leaders of the free world, they may have to wait for the next leak before receiving any such assurances themselves.

TIME chechnya

What It’s Like to Grow Up Under Putin in Chechnya

The Russian leader turned Chechen enemies into his closest allies. Here's why it matters

It is hard to avoid the gaze of Russian President Vladimir Putin when traveling around the region of Chechnya. His portraits adorn public buildings, apartment blocks, highways and airport terminals, encouraging a cult of personality that is far more pervasive in Chechnya than anywhere else in Russia.

The reason has to do with Moscow’s desire to keep Chechnya under control. In the 1990s, Russia fought two wars to prevent the region from breaking away, and Putin’s ascent to the presidency in 2000 was fueled by his victory over the Chechen separatists that year.

Since then, Chechnya has undergone a striking transformation. Its cities have been rebuilt with money from Moscow. All traces of its separatist rebellion have been suppressed. And most importantly, a new generation has been raised to respect—at times even to worship—the Russian leader and his local proxies. With no clear memories of the wars for independence, the young people of Chechnya are now the best guarantee that Russia’s hold over the region will persist.

Read TIME’s most recent story on Putin here.

TIME portfolio

Yuri Kozyrev: Photographing 15 Years of Chechnya’s Troubled History

The photographer has witnessed Chechnya's dramatic evolution

Yuri Kozyrev recalls the winter of 1999 as one of the most trying and tragic of his career as a photographer. It was the eve of Vladimir Putin’s ascent to the Russian presidency, and the height of the Russian bombardment of Chechnya, when entire towns in that breakaway republic were, as the Russians often put it, “made level with the earth.”

Kozyrev, a native of Moscow, documented both of Chechnya’s wars against Russia in the 1990s. The first one, fought between 1994 and 1996, had resulted in a humiliating defeat for Russia. But the carnage was far worse when the conflict resumed under Putin in 1999.

Arriving in Chechnya that fall, Kozyrev’s plan was to find and photograph two men amid the chaos of the Russian invasion. The first was Major General Alexander Ivanovich Otrakovsky, who was then commanding the Russian marines from his encampment near the town of Tsentaroy, a key stronghold of the Chechen separatists. The second was the general’s son, Captain Ivan Otrakovsky, who was serving on the front lines not far from the base, in one of the most hotly contested patches of territory.

The aim, says Kozyrev, was to document the two generations of Russian servicemen involved in the conflict – the elder brought up at the height of Soviet power during the Cold War, the younger in the dying years of Moscow’s empire. After weeks of negotiations, he finally managed to embed with the marines and to track down their general, a stocky man with a sly smile and a distinctive mole on the right side of his nose.

At the time, his command center was in an abandoned storage facility for crude oil, Chechnya’s most plentiful and lucrative commodity – and one of the main reasons why Russia refused to allow the region to secede. “It was incredible,” Kozyrev says of his first encounter with the general. “Here were these commanders living inside of a giant oil bunker.”

He recalls Otrakovsky as a kindly intellectual, nothing like the Russian cutthroats who would later be accused of committing atrocities in Chechnya. The general, whose troops referred to him affectionately as Dyed, or Grandpa, was willing to help Kozyrev. But he explained that reaching his son on the front lines would be extremely dangerous, as it would require passing through enemy territory around Tsentaroy.

That town was well known in Chechnya as the home of the Kadyrov clan, an extended family of rebel fighters whose patriarch, the mufti Akhmad Kadyrov, had served as the religious leader of the rebellion. During the first war for independence in the 1990s, he had even declared a state of jihad against Russia, instructing all Chechens that it was their duty to “kill as many Russians as they could.”

At the start of the second war, however, Kadyrov switched sides and agreed to help the Russians, causing a fateful split within the rebel ranks. While the more recalcitrant insurgents had turned to the tactics of terrorism and the ideology of radical Islam, Akhmad Kadyrov abandoned his previous calls for jihad and agreed to serve as Putin’s proxy leader in Chechnya in the fall of 1999.

That did not stop the fighting around his home village, as various insurgent groups continued attacking Russian and loyalist forces positioned around Tsentaroy. So none of the Russian marines were especially keen to move around the area unless they had good reason, and it took Kozyrev days to convince the Russian commander to allow him to reach the front lines. Eventually Gen. Otrakovsky consented, providing the photographer with an escort of about ten marines and two armored personnel carriers.

They set out on what Kozyrev recalls as an especially cold day, rumbling through fog or mist that made it difficult to see the surrounding terrain. As the general had feared, the group was ambushed. From multiple directions, Chechen fighters opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, forcing the convoy to retreat from Tsentaroy. One of the marines was killed in the firefight; three others were wounded.

When they returned to the base, it was clear from the glares of the troops that they all blamed Kozyrev for the fiasco, he says, and Gen. Otrakovsky advised the photographer to leave in the morning. “He said it may not be safe anymore for me to stay among his men,” Kozyrev remembers.

The trauma of that incident has lingered, weighing heaviest during his later assignments in Chechnya. Today, the region is ruled by Kadyrov’s son Ramzan, who took over after his father was assassinated in 2004. His native village of Tsentaroy has since enjoyed a generous stream of aid for redevelopment, including the construction of a beautiful mosque dedicated to Ramzan Kadyrov’s mother.

The rest of Chechnya has been rebuilt with similar largesse from Moscow, which has poured billions of dollars into the reconstruction of the cities and towns it had destroyed. When Kozyrev returned to Chechnya in 2009, nearly a decade after the end of the war, he says, “It blew my mind. The place is unrecognizable.”

The Chechen capital of Grozny – which the U.N. deemed “the most destroyed city on earth” in 2003 – is now a gleaming metropolis. Its center is packed with skyscrapers, sporting arenas, shopping plazas and an enormous mosque, the largest in Europe, dedicated to the memory of Akhmad Kadyrov.

His clan now rules the region unchallenged, having sidelined all of its local rivals with Moscow’s unflinching support. Throughout the region, portraits of Putin and the Kadyrovs are now plastered on the facades of buildings and along highways. Among the more ostentatious is a gigantic picture of Akhmad Kadyrov astride a rearing stallion, which adorns a building at the end of the city’s main drag – the Avenue of V.V. Putin.

The strangeness of the transformation, and of its architects, still seems astounding to Kozyrev, who last went on assignment to Chechnya for TIME in April. The trips always remind him of Gen. Otrakovsy, who died of a heart attack while commanding the marines in southern Chechnya, about four months after the young photographer had shown up to ask for his help. The general’s son, whom Kozyrev never did manage to find, went on to become a right-wing politician in Russia with close ties to Orthodox Christian conservative groups.

These were the men who executed the war that helped bring Putin to power. “But it was all the decision of one man to bring Chechnya back under control in ‘99. Putin decided to do that,” Kozyrev says. “And it’s incredible, when you think about it. But the men of Tsentaroy turned out to be his most loyal helpers.”

Yuri Kozyrev is a photojournalist and a TIME contract photographer. He is represented by Noor. In 2000, he received two World Press Photo photojournalism awards for his coverage of the second Chechen war in 1999.

Alice Gabriner, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s International Photo Editor.

Simon Shuster is a reporter for TIME based in Moscow.


Why African Soccer Officials See FIFA Probe As ‘Imperialist’

The corruption scandal has struck a nerve among African officials wary of Western dominance in sport and politics

The news of Sepp Blatter’s resignation on Tuesday drew outrage from the leading officials in African soccer. Only four days earlier, on May 29, they had helped keep him in power as president of FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, by voting to elect him to a fifth term in office. But the pressure against Blatter from U.S. investigators only intensified after that, and the criminal probe into corruption at FIFA seemed to grow closer to Blatter’s doorstep with every day.

So the resignation did not just feel like a squandered election victory to officials like Fikile Mbalula, the South African Minister of Sport. It felt like the world of Western imperialists “parading themselves as world policemen,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Such indignation was perhaps unsurprising. Throughout his 17 years at the helm of FIFA, Blatter channeled generous aid to the development of soccer in the world’s poorest nations, which repaid the favor by supporting him through the persistent claims of corruption against his leadership. South Africans were among his biggest fans, mostly because he helped bring the World Cup soccer championship to their country in 2010.

But the level of the frustration among Blatter’s supporters in Africa over the past week has shown that the rivalries in soccer go well beyond the field of play or the competition to host the world’s top tournaments. They point instead to a political and cultural rift within the sport’s governing body, one that draws at least some of its fury from the history of Western dominance over the developing world.

Mbalula made that much clear during Wednesday’s press conference. “Sepp Blatter has been a good friend of South Africa,” he said, giving him particular credit for bringing the World Cup to Africa for the first time.

Throughout his appearance, Mbalula calmly denied U.S. claims that South Africa had paid a $10 million bribe to FIFA officials as part of its bid to host the championships. The South African government, he said, had “a responsibility to defend the legacy of the World Cup and African success.” But his otherwise even temper faltered in defending Blatter from the mounting claims of corruption.

“We have fought colonialism and defeated it, and we still fight imperialism,” he said, referring to the campaign against top FIFA officials, nine of whom were indicted on May 27 as part of a U.S. criminal case against alleged racketeering and bribe-taking in international soccer. “We will continue to fight it whenever it manifests itself,” he added. “We believe in multilateralism, not unilateralism.”

Similar claims of injustice have resounded from African soccer officials ever since the scandal broke in late May. Kwesi Nyantakyi, the head of Ghana’s national football association, also aired grievances against Western arrogance in his defense of Blatter’s re-election to the FIFA presidency last week. “They think that Africans are corrupt and have to be influenced to take one decision or the other. That is very unfortunate,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “People should not think that we are so intellectually bankrupt that we have to be influenced to take decisions.”

The main targets of such animosity have been the wealthier and more established powerhouses of European soccer, whose main governing body – the Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA – called on Blatter not to seek re-election after the arrests of his direct subordinates last week. When he resigned from his post, many of Europe’s top sporting officials responded with something approaching glee.

“It now means that we can get someone in to run FIFA,” said Greg Dyke, the chairman of English Football Association. “We can get in there and find out where all the money has gone over all these years,” he told the BBC.

That looked a lot like a European power grab to some of Dyke’s peers in Africa. Nyantakyi, the official from Ghana, even suggested that the West is trying to turn FIFA into something like the United Nations, where most of the actual power is concentrated in the hands of five nuclear-armed countries – the U.S., U.K., France, China and Russia – all of which have the right to veto the U.N.’s key decisions.

FIFA has no such concentration of power at the top. Each national federation gets one vote in FIFA’s decisions, regardless of the size or power of the country it represents. But even if that makes it a purer democracy than the U.N., the rules that govern FIFA may also have set the conditions for influence peddling in the world of soccer.

According to the U.S. indictment, FIFA officials from the developing world had been selling their votes for decades, skewing the outcome of its decisions on where to host major tournaments. Swiss authorities, in cooperation with the U.S., are now pursuing a separate investigation into how FIFA gave Russia and Qatar the rights to host the next two World Cup champions. With Blatter gone, those tournaments could be in jeopardy, as could the system of patronage that thrived under his leadership.

But even if that system did allow or even encourage graft, it also gave a more powerful voice within FIFA to its smallest and poorest federations. Their votes were as widely coveted as those of any other member, and that made FIFA one of few venues in global politics where they could never be ignored. Isha Johansen, the top soccer official in Sierra Leone, tried to make that point in defending Blatter after his resignation on Tuesday.

“I think it’s immense appreciation,” she told the BBC in describing the way he helped her country develop the game of soccer after a brutal civil war. “And also respect for somebody that can say, ‘look, you guys keep falling, you’re crawling, you’re creeping – I’m there to pick you up and give you guys a push.’”

With that view of his legacy, African soccer officials will likely look back on Blatter’s tenure with nostalgia for some time to come, especially as Western governments and football clubs pursue what Dyke called a “root-and-branch investigation” of FIFA in the months ahead. Regardless of whom the investigation incriminates or convicts of wrongdoing, it looks likely to end the era when Africa’s voice could outweigh the West in the world of international soccer.

TIME Soccer

How FIFA’s Leader Has Clung to Power Despite Corruption Scandal

The rules of soccer's governing body are stacked in favor of entrenched leaders like the 79-year-old Sepp Blatter

There aren’t many venues in global politics these days where developing nations, especially from Africa, can overrule their wealthy European peers. But FIFA is surely one of them. Such are the rules of the mammoth bureaucracy that governs the game of soccer—in its decisions, one country gets one vote, regardless how big or powerful—that even the worst scandal in its history could not dislodge the technocrat who enjoys the support of the developing world.

Sepp Blatter, who has run FIFA since 1998, easily won re-election on Friday to another four-year term. And it didn’t matter that nine officials under his command, including two direct subordinates, had been indicted by the U.S. two days earlier for allegedly taking millions of dollars in kickbacks during Blatter’s tenure. It also didn’t matter that the most influential nations in soccer, including all of Europe and North America, were intent on finally ousting Blatter after those arrests.

It didn’t matter because of delegates like Amaju Pinnick, the head of the soccer federation of Nigeria, who emerged on Friday evening from the congress hall in Zurich, Switzerland, wearing a pinstripe suit and a radiant smile. His friendship with Blatter dates back to 1999, when the newly elected FIFA President paid a visit to Nigeria. “I was privileged to go with the VIP volunteers who worked with him,” says Pinnick, who was then a mid-level official in Nigerian soccer. “He told me what he wanted to do for Africa, what he wanted to do for the developing nations,” he recalled. “He wants the small nations in FIFA to feel very important.”

The FIFA congress was full of such testimonials. On the massive screens above the stage, videos promoting Blatter’s good works ran at regular intervals, one showing a montage of African children playing soccer on the beach. “We promote soccer, everywhere,” the voiceover explained. At one point, Isha Johansen, the head of the soccer federation of Sierra Leone, stood up to thank Blatter for helping her country fight last year’s outbreak of the Ebola virus with a “solidarity token” of $50,000. “That was the very first international donation Sierra Leone ever received to fight Ebola,” she said.

There was no such praise, however, from the soccer federations of the developed world, which represented about a third of the 209 countries and territories that comprise FIFA. When the voting ended on Friday evening, the Westerners sulked out of the hall, saying little to the news cameras that tried to capture their frustration. The few who agreed to talk, like Jesper Moller Christensen of Denmark, expressed “disappointment” over Blatter’s re-election. “This is not the end,” he insisted. “There are disciplinary actions we could take if the evidence appears.”

But so far, the evidence hasn’t appeared. The indictments unsealed on Wednesday in New York detailed decades of bribes worth a total of around $150 million, which top FIFA officials allegedly received in exchange for granting promotional contracts, tournaments and other lucrative deals to their patrons. Nine of these officials are now under arrest in Switzerland, awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face charges including racketeering and money laundering. But Blatter is not among them.

“Right now he is unscathed,” said the dejected president of the soccer federation of Cyprus, Costas Koutsokoumnis, as he stood smoking outside the congress hall after Blatter’s re-election. “His name is not touched anywhere.”

This fact did not come as a surprise to Brett Forest, who has spent years investigating corruption in the world of soccer. “Many journalists for decades have been on to this guy,” said Forest, a senior writer with ESPN Magazine who recently published a book on match-fixing at the highest levels of the game. “But no one has ever found anything that’s really good enough. That tells you this guy is a smart player.”

Rather than exposing himself through blatant bribery schemes, Blatter has tended to use small development projects to win the loyalty of soccer federations from impoverished countries. He has steadily funneled some of FIFA’s enormous cash pile—the total revenues of the organization between 2011 and 2014 came to around $5.7 billion—toward building stadiums and supporting leagues in the developing world. Under his tenure, the World Cup also came to Africa for the first time: in 2010, South Africa hosted the soccer championships, which Blatter aptly referred to on Friday as “the goose with the golden eggs” during one of his rambling speeches.

“While a lot of that is really positive and shouldn’t be dismissed, only a fraction of the money intended for those projects often goes to the right place,” said Forest. Much of it gets siphoned off to corrupt officials in the recipient countries, further encouraging their devotion to FIFA’s incumbent leadership, he said. “It’s a cabal that perpetuates itself.”

European soccer federations have no easy means of dislodging it. Next week, the Union of European Football Associations, which is known as UEFA, will meet again in Berlin to discuss their options against Blatter. There was even speculation at the congress on Friday that the Europeans could split off from FIFA to form a rival organization. But Christensen of Denmark said that won’t happen any time soon. “The 54 members of UEFA will never agree to a boycott,” he said.

Instead they are counting on the arrested FIFA officials to give testimony against Blatter. “There would then be disciplinary actions we could take” inside FIFA in order to unseat the President, Chistensen told TIME. So even though Blatter managed on Friday to win another term, it is far from clear that he will be able to hold on for the duration of his latest four-year term. “No, no, we will not wait that long,” said Koutsokoumnis of Cyprus. “There are ways to get him.”

The clearest way would be another indictment, which the acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York has promised to produce as the investigation moves forward. “It’s only just beginning,” Kelly Currie said on Wednesday of the arrests so far.

In the coming months, FIFA and its President will still have to deal with the damning allegations that emerge from the ongoing probe. Working with U.S. law enforcement, Swiss authorities have launched a separate investigation into how FIFA allotted Russia and Qatar the rights to host the next two World Cup championships. But even if these criminal cases implicate Blatter directly, or discredit him enough to force his resignation, it is far from clear that FIFA will change.

“You have to understand the structure of FIFA,” said Forest, the investigative journalist. “In one sense it’s a beautiful and pure democracy. A small country like Togo has the same voting power as a country like Germany. But it’s also FIFA’s fundamental weakness.” In practice, it seems to encourage FIFA’s leadership to court the favor of the smallest federations, because they know that with their support, a FIFA President is effectively immune to internal demands for change.

In his parting remarks on Friday, Blatter seemed to signal that this culture would persist. Instead of addressing the corruption scandal directly—he only referred to it as a “storm,” as though it were a natural and temporary bit of turbulence—he promised to give more seats on FIFA’s ruling committee to representatives of Oceania, which is mostly comprised of Pacific Island countries like Fiji. That is what FIFA needs right now, he said, for the sake of “solidarity.”

And as long as Blatter can use such favors to keep the developing world behind him, there is little that the wealthy nations of the world can do to influence his leadership. They may just have to resign themselves to another four years under Blatter, who seemed to feel that his time in office hadn’t lasted all that long. “What is this notion of time? Time is infinite and we slice it up,” the 79-year-old remarked, turning suddenly philosophical as the congress wound down. “The more one ages, the more time flies by quickly, time grows short. So I am with you, and I would quite simply like to stay with you.” And with that, the majority of the audience broke into wild applause.

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