Qatar and Fifa are about to break the internet as news circulates that nine senior officials at Fifa headquarters in Zurich have been indicted on charges of wire fraud, bribery and racketeering. The arrests include two vice presidents and all arrested face extradition to the United States. These actions are coordinated between two simultaneous investigations being launched with the US Department of Justice indicting 14 officials in total on corruption charges. The second investigation was headed by Swiss prosecutors looking into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, to be held in Russia and Qatar respectively. The case will examine a supposed $150 million in bribes that Fifa officials may have taken in exchange for sponsorship and marketing rights and other special treatments.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated at a press conference, “Corruption is rampant in Fifa.” She spoke on the leaders of the organization, “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 world wide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.”

Incumbent president Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term and is considered by many to be the most powerful person in sports, was not one of the officials arrested. Fifa announced it plans to go ahead with elections for president on Friday.

Who was arrested?

Nine Fifa officials and four executives of sports management companies were arrested, according to the US Department of Justice. The suspects were named as:

  • Jack Warner, the former Fifa vice-president
  • Jeffrey Webb, current Fifa vice-president and president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf)
  • Eugenio Figueredo, current Fifa vice-president and executive committee member
  • Eduardo Li, current Fifa executive committee member-elect
  • Julio Rocha, current Fifa development officer
  • Rafael Esquivel, president of the Venezuelan Football Federation
  • José Maria Marin, ex-president of the Brazilian Football Confederation
  • Costas Takkas, current attaché to the Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb

The US Department of Justice reports the sports marketing executives arrested were: Alejandro Burzaco, the controlling principal of Argentinian sports marketing firm Torneos y Competencias S.A; Aaron Davidson, president of Traffic Sports USA; Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, controlling principals of Argentinian sports marketing firm Full Play Group S.A.

Qatar World Cup Protests

Netizens have been protesting the selection of Qatar for the 2022 World Cup as news emerged questioning its lack of human rights for foreign and migrant laborers. The Roosevelts recently curated a collection of statement-making logo redesigns of the sponsor brands for the event. VISA, Adidas, Kia and Coca-Cola are currently featured in a series of anti-logo artwork. The series will be ongoing and aims to bring awareness to the tough measures forced upon workers to meet tight deadlines, and to pressure these brands into influencing drastic changes to these working conditions.

qatar world cup 2022 visa anti logo

qatar cocacola anti logo

Qatar + Human Rights Issues

Per capita, the Gulf state of Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world. It is abundant with natural gas reserves and enough financial liquidity to invest globally in Harrods, successfully bid to host the 2022 World Cup and back Islamist movements that will help it get stronger political footing in the Middle East. As a recent analysis from The Guardian stated:

Yet its recent experience has disproved the old maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity. The World Cup bid has drawn attention to the appalling conditions in which Asian labourers live and work, while the turmoil of the Arab spring has exposed Qatar to charges of supporting extremist groups fighting in Syria. Neither, to put it mildly, have helped burnish the emirate’s modern image.

News of the arrest of a BBC team invited to see improvements for foreign workers is damaging too – and will doubtless have the Portland PR team grinding their teeth in frustration. It is ironic that an effort to show that Qatar is responding to complaints from trade unions, the International Labour Organisation and human rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International has backfired so badly.

Public Reaction

As the US Department of Justice and Swiss prosecutors continue to investigate, Twitter has been restless with responses of extreme delight and further questions over the arrests and possible corruption in connection to Qatar:

[via doitinpublic, Al Jazeera America and The Guardian]