TIME Soccer

FIFA’s Former VP Pays Most of His $10 Million Police Bond in Luxury Goods

65th FIFA Congress Previews
Alexander Hassenstein — FIFA via Getty Images Jeffrey Webb, FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF President looks on during the CONCACAF confederation meeting at Renaissance Hotel on May 26, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland

Diamonds are clearly a former FIFA official's best friend

What can 11 luxury watches, a diamond wedding ring, a 401(k) account, three high-performance cars and 10 properties buy? In the case of Jeffrey Webb, an ex-FIFA executive, it’ll secure a $10 million bond releasing him from police custody.

Webb, a former vice president of soccer’s scandal-hit world governing body, was one of seven officials extradited from Switzerland in May for corruption. He secured the bond by putting up many of his most prized luxury items, according to the AP. The 50-year-old has also been asked to pay for electronic monitoring while he is under home detention.

On Saturday, he had pleaded not guilty in a New York court to charges of bribery and racketeering. Originally from the Cayman Islands, Webb is the first of nine soccer officials and five marketing executives to be indicted for a $150 million bribery scandal that has brought FIFA to its knees.

The AP reports that the watches included five Rolexes and a Breitling, while the cars included a 2015 Ferrari and a 2014 Range Rover. His wife’s jewelry box is probably much depleted by now as well — a diamond bracelet, a diamond and pearl necklace, one pair of pearl earrings, and one pair of long-hanging diamond earrings have also been handed over as a part of the bond.

[AP]

TIME Soccer

Switzerland Extradites FIFA Official to U.S.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter Announces Resignation
Philipp Schmidli—Getty Images A FIFA logo sits on the rooftop at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich on June 3, 2015

He was handed over to three U.S. police officers who accompanied him on the flight to New York

(GENEVA) — One of the seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich as part of a corruption probe has been extradited to the United States, the Swiss Justice Ministry said Thursday.

The Federal Office of Justice said the man, whom it did not identify, was extradited on Wednesday.

“He was handed over to a three-man U.S. police escort in Zurich who accompanied him on the flight to New York,” the ministry said in a statement.

The official agreed last week to be extradited, unlike six others who are fighting extradition.

The extradited man is accused of “accepting bribes totaling millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to various sports marketing firms and keeping the money for himself,” the Swiss justice office said last week.

All seven men were arrested on May 27 in dawn raids on a luxury hotel in Zurich by Swiss federal police at the request of American federal agencies.

They include FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay. Both have been suspended from football duty by FIFA’s ethics committee.

A total of 14 men — nine football officials and five marketing executives — were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in May, and a further four had their guilty pleas unsealed.

They are alleged to have taken part in a racketeering conspiracy paying bribes of more than $150 million over a 24-year period. The payments were tied to the award of broadcast and hosting rights for the World Cup, continental championships in North and South America, and regional club tournaments.

U.S. authorities have said more indictments should follow, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter is a target of the widening case.

Under pressure from the investigation, and a separate Swiss federal probe of money laundering linked to FIFA’s award of 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights, Blatter announced on June 2 that he would leave office within months.

TIME Soccer

U.S. Files Formal Extradition Request For Seven FIFA Officials

Argentine businessmen Mariano Jinkis and Hugo who are wanted by U.S. prosecutors in a FIFA bribery investigation, are escorted by police officers after they turned themselves in to authorities in Buenos Aires
Enrique Marcarian —REUTERS Argentine businessmen Mariano Jinkis and his father Hugo who are wanted by U.S. prosecutors in a FIFA bribery investigation, are escorted by police officers after they turned themselves in to authorities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 18, 2015

The requests are based on a U.S. probe into alleged bribery

(ZURICH) — The United States has submitted a formal request for Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials arrested as part of a corruption probe in Zurich in May, Swiss officials said Thursday.

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice said the requests were received July 1, within the 40-day deadline required.

They are based on a U.S. federal probe into alleged bribery and racketeering worth more than $150 million involving high-ranking officials at soccer’s world governing body.

All seven men, who face around 20 years in prison, have already objected to extradition.

They will be heard by Zurich police and granted a 14-day period to respond to federal officials about the extradition request, after which the Federal Office of Justice will rule on whether to extradite them. That ruling can be appealed to Switzerland’s top criminal court and supreme court.

The seven men, arrested May 27 in early-morning raids at a luxury Zurich hotel, include FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.

Costa Rican soccer federation president Eduardo Li was arrested two days before he was due to formally join FIFA’s executive committee.

Former Brazilian federation chief Jose Maria Marin led the 2014 World Cup local organizing committee and is a member of the FIFA panel organizing the Rio de Janeiro Olympics tournaments.

The others are Venezuela FA chief Rafael Esquivel; FIFA staffer Julio Rocha, a development officer from Nicaragua; and Costas Takkas, a Briton who works for CONCACAF President Webb.

The seven are among 14 indicted by the U.S. Justice Department. Four more men have entered guilty pleas in the wide-ranging corruption case.

TIME Soccer

Fallout From FIFA Corruption Probe Intensifies

Soccer's governing body is also at risk of losing millions in sponsorship deals

Corporate sponsors are scrambling to distance themselves from the sprawling corruption dragnet launched against soccer’s global governing body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), by American and Swiss authorities this week.

On Wednesday, prosecutors in the U.S. unveiled a 47-count indictment against 14 defendants tied to the federation, including nine FIFA officials, who are accused of involvement in racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies.

“Our investigation revealed that what should be an expression of international sportsmanship was used as a vehicle in a broader scheme to line executives’ pockets with bribes totaling $110 million — nearly a third of the legitimate costs of the rights to the tournaments involved,” Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, told reporters during a press conference in Brooklyn.

The presentation of the indictment in New York City came as officials in Switzerland launched their own criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, following the arrest of seven FIFA officials in Zurich on the eve of the federation’s 65th international congress in the city.

Corporate sponsors linked to the organization appear to be in all-out damage control mode as the investigation made international headlines. World Cup sponsor Visa joined the chorus of saber rattlers lambasting FIFA and threatened to abandon its deal with the organization if it failed to weed out corruption in its ranks.

“It is important that FIFA makes changes now,” read a statement released by Visa. “Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

Global soft-drink juggernaut Coca-Cola, which is also listed as one of seven FIFA partners for the 2018 World Cup, also sought to disassociate itself from the investigation, blasting the association for bringing disrepute to the sport.

“This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations,” said the company in a statement.

However, sponsors also appear to be firmly in the crosshairs of the U.S Justice Department.

During the press conference in Brooklyn, Attorney General Lynch said the corruption probe also covered “agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,” a not-so-vague reference to the 10-year, $160 million deal that Nike and the Brazilian national team inked in 1996.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials promised that the investigation launched this week was only the first chapter in their probe into corruption in international soccer.

“This is the beginning of our effort, not the end,” stressed Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We are looking into individuals and entities in a variety of countries.”

TIME Switzerland

Switzerland Plans to Close Loopholes that Let International Sporting Organizations Be Above the Law

FIFA and other bodies are subject to the same laws as tiny village associations, which are protected by Swiss law

Switzerland is not a stranger to scandals – its banks have long been embroiled in money laundering and tax evasion. Now, the international football organization headquartered in this Alpine nation is in turmoil as well.

The arrest on Wednesday of seven FIFA officials on charges of corruption involving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks has plunged the soccer’s controversial governing body into crisis.

Swiss police confiscated documents and electronic data after raiding FIFA’s Zurich headquarters on Wednesday as part of an on-going investigation into money laundering and fraud that came to light after the organization awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

As the detained officials are holed up in a luxury Zurich hotel awaiting extradition to the U.S to face criminal corruption charges, some politicians here claim that the abuses went unnoticed because the organization had not been sufficiently scrutinized. “FIFA likes being based in Switzerland because it enjoys very loose governmental and financial oversight,” right-wing parliamentarian, Roland Buechel, writes on his website.

However, it may soon become more difficult for sports organizations to engage in illegal activities. Last December, the parliament passed a law spearheaded by Buechel that would increase the government oversight of FIFA and other sporting bodies based in Switzerland, which have had little scrutiny.

Currently, FIFA, along with about 60 other Switzerland-based sporting bodies – including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – operates under an “association” status, which means it is exempt from Swiss anti-corruption laws that govern all businesses. Or, as Buechel notes, “FIFA is organized like a small yodeling association in a mountain village. They should be structured like a proper company.”

Perhaps because of the lack of stricter oversight, other Switzerland-based sporting bodies had also been at times embroiled in controversy – in 1998, for instance, several IOC members were charged with taking bribes worth millions of dollars from the Salt Lake City Bid Committee. In 2009, FIFA’s sister organization, The Union of European Football Associations, was involved in a betting scandal, when it tried to influence the outcome of soccer games. And a couple of years ago, the International Cycling Federation faced heavy criticism in the wake of doping scandals like that of the former professional racing cyclist, Lance Armstrong.

The proposed law would designate top executives of sports organizations like FIFA’s Sepp Blatter or IOC’s head Thomas Bach as “politically exposed persons,” which means that their bank accounts would be carefully monitored for suspicious activities.

This legislation is scheduled to be debated in parliament next week, but, due to the notoriously slow nature of the country’s legislative process, may not be enacted until 2017.

In the meantime, Buechel and other lawmakers who are working on the new legislation are hoping that, from now on, the only kickbacks in the sports industry will happen on the soccer field.

TIME Soccer

See John Oliver Take Down FIFA

John Oliver slammed the soccer governing body long before the corruption scandal broke

If you’re confused about what led to the the arrest of International Football Association (FIFA) officials on Wednesday, a piece on comedian John Oliver’s show from nearly a year ago may shed light on the situation.

Oliver covers it all from sexist remarks by the organization’s top official to poor treatment of migrant workers constructing World Cup stadiums. FIFA is much like established religion, Oliver argues.

“Just think about it. Its leader is infallible. It compels South American countries to spend money they don’t have building opulent cathedrals, and it may ultimately be responsible for thousands of deaths in the Middle East,” Oliver said.

Watch below:

Read Next: What to Know About the U.S. Investigation Into Soccer’s Governing Body

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Soccer

Swiss Authorities to Investigate FIFA Over 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bids

FBL-FIFA-CORRUPTION-US-SWITZERLAND
Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich on May 27, 2015

The suspects are likely to be extradited to the U.S.

Swiss officials rounded up seven leading soccer officials in Zurich on Wednesday morning as a part of an operation that will likely see the suspects extradited to the U.S. on corruption charges, reports the New York Times. The arrests come just days ahead of the 65th congress of the sport’s global governing body FIFA, which is scheduled to commence in the Swiss city on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors in Switzerland have opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and said they have seized “electronic data and documents” at the FIFA headquarters as part of the investigation. Police officials said 10 executive committee members who took part in the 2010 votes will be questioned. The U.S. Department of Justice has also unveiled an indictment against nine FIFA officials, including vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugene Figueredo, and five corporate executives for racketeering conspiracy and corruption.

The soccer organization has been long bedeviled by rumors of graft, especially relating to World Cup bids and broadcast rights.“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” an unidentified law-enforcement official told the newspaper. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”

[NYT]

TIME On Our Radar

Christian Patterson Wins Vevey International Photography Award

American photographer Christian Patterson takes away $42,000 grant

American photographer Christian Patterson has won the 2015-2016 Vevey International Photography Award.

The New York-based photographer received the Swiss grant of CHF 40,000 (around $42,000) to realize his project Gong Co, about a closed Chinese grocery store in the Mississippi Delta whose shelves remained stocked with decades-old products. “[The store] had become an unintentional museum, or something like a time capsule,” Patterson tells TIME.

“I try to seek out a subject matter that has multiple layers to explore and leads me to ideas not only for photographs but for documents, objects and installations as well,” he says. “When these various visual and physical threads are woven together, an ‘other’ world can be entered through the work, and that is what inspires and excites me right now.”

The photographer will have a year to realize the project, which will be previewed at the next Festival Images in the fall of 2016 in Vevey, Switzerland, with an immersive storefront installation, including actual products and objects from the shuttered shop.

Born in Fond du Lac, Wis., the self-taught photographer is most known for his book Redheaded Peckerwood, published by MACK, which won the Rencontres d’Arles Author Book Award in 2012. He was also a 2013 Guggenheim fellow.

“[Since Redheaded Peckerwood], we have all been waiting to see what his next project is, and it’s really exciting that [Gong Co] is going to land here in Vevey,” says Kira Pollack, director of photography and visual enterprise at TIME, who sat on this year’s jury.

Patterson was chosen from among 600 projects. “We saw an incredible range of work and a lot of different types of photography,” says Pollack.

The jury, chaired by American artist James Casebere, also included Julien Frydman, development director of the Luma Foundation in Arles, Marta Gili, director of Jeu de Paume gallery in Paris and Ramón Reverté, editor-in-chief of RM publishers in Mexico.

TIME Switzerland

This Country Has the World’s Happiest People

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Dale Reubin—Getty Images/Cultura RF View of mountains and lakeside village, Switzerland

Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom and the economy all play a role in happiness

The happiest people in the world live in Switzerland, a new study found.

The third World Happiness Report, released by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network on Thursday, ranked 158 countries based on Gallup surveys from 2012-15 and analyzed the key factors contributing to happiness levels.

Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada were the top five happiest countries, while the West African nation of Togo was the least happy.

The report aims to provide policymakers around the world with new metrics that place a higher emphasis on subjective well-being. While income appeared to play a significant role in boosting happiness—the GDP per capita is 25 times higher in the 10 happiest countries than in the 10 least happy—it was far from the only factor. Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom, generosity and corruption levels also helped explain the happiness scores, according to the report.

The U.S., for example, ranked 15th in the world, one below Mexico and three below Costa Rica, where per capita GDP is roughly a fifth of that in the U.S.

“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being,” Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said in a statement. “It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health.”

But sharp economic changes in a country can play a role in people’s happiness, the report found. Greece, where the global recession triggered prolonged economic turmoil, saw its happiness levels fall the most since 2005-07, compared to 125 other countries where data was available.

Still, the report warned policymakers against overemphasizing income levels.

“When countries pursue GDP in a lopsided manner, forgetting about social and environmental objectives, the results can be adverse for human well-being,” the report said. “Many countries in recent years have achieved economic growth at the cost of the sharply rising inequalities of income and grave damage to the natural environment.”

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