FIFA probe a political attempt to strip Russia of 2018 World Cup – Russian anti-corruption watchdog

Russia’s anti-corruption watchdog chief says he does not believe the 2018 World Cup bidding process was corrupt and the FIFA arrests are a politically motivated attempt to strip Russia of the World Cup.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (MAY 27, 2015) (REUTERS) – The arrests of seven of the most powerful figures in global soccer faced extradition to the United States on corruption charges on Wednesday (May 27) in Switzerland, could result in 2018 World Cup host Russia being stripped of that right, a Russian anti-corruption watchdog has said.

Russia has said the arrests were not related to Russia’s bidding campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

But the chairman of Russia’s National Anti-Corruption Committee, Kirill Kabanov, said on Wednesday “certain forces” could use the arrests as a pretext to cancel the games in Russia.

“We may assume that this situation can possibly be used by certain forces to put political pressure on Russia and to cancel the World Cup, in an attempt to cancel the World Cup,” Kabanov told Reuters TV.

“God forbid the cancellation of the championship, but theoretically it is possible if it is legally decided that Russia won unlawfully. But, I think, that the decision was made by a wide group of people and all of them could not have been bribed. I don’t think bribery is likely at all,” added Kabanov.

“It is difficult to say that everyone was bribed and all those named were bought. We know that people who are in these international organisations are not poor people. This should be investigated. And, of course, in case it is found that there was a provocation, this would look ugly.”

The world’s most popular sport was plunged into turmoil after U.S. and Swiss authorities announced separate inquiries into the activities of the game’s powerful governing body, FIFA.

U.S. authorities said nine soccer officials and five sports media and promotions executives faced corruption charges involving more than $150 million in bribes. In pursuit of the U.S. case, Swiss police arrested seven FIFA officials who are now awaiting extradition to the United States.

U.S. authorities have announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups.

U.S. officials gave details of a case in which they said they exposed complex money laundering schemes, found millions of dollars in untaxed incomes and tens of millions in offshore accounts held by FIFA officials.

Separate from the U.S. investigation, Swiss prosecutors said they had opened their own criminal proceedings against unidentified people on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.

Data and documents were seized from computers at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters, the Swiss prosecutors said.

Officials said that following the arrests, accounts at several banks in Switzerland had been blocked.

The U.S. Department of Justice named those arrested in its case as: Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, another FIFA Vice-President, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin.