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Fifa presidential election to go ahead - despite overnight arrests of officials

“If it it wasn’t so serious it sounds like something out of a mafia movie,” FAI boss John Delaney said.

Updated 16.21pm

FIFA HAS CONFIRMED that their presidential elections will go ahead as planned despite the opening of two separate criminal investigations this morning.

Seven Fifa officials were arrested at a hotel in Zurich, where members of the football governing body are gathering for their Congress.

The US Attorney General’s case centres on alleged corruption in commercial deals for football tournaments in the United States and Latin America.

Separately, Swiss federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Qatar and Russia.

Sepp Blatter, who is expected to be elected to a fifth presidential term on Friday, is not one of those involved in the investigation, Fifa said in a hastily-arranged press conference this morning.

The prosecutors’ office says the proceedings are against “persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering” in connection with the votes won by Russia and Qatar. Up to 10 people will be questioned.

Prosecutors say they have seized “electronic data and documents” at Fifa’s headquarters as part of the probe.

US investigation

In a statement this morning following the hotel raid, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said US authorities suspect the officials of having received bribes totaling millions of dollars.

Source: Sky News/YouTube

It says the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is investigating these individuals on suspicion of the acceptance of bribes between the early 1990s and now.

The case involves bribes “totaling more than $100 million” linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for football tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the statement said.

The New York Times reports that the Swiss officers arrived at the Zurich hotel in plain clothes, went to the front desk to get keys, and proceeded upstairs to the rooms of the arrested executives.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 Announcement File Photo Swiss security forces arrive at the hotel. Source: PA WIRE

Press conference

Speaking to reporters this morning, Director of Communications and PR at Fifa Walter de Gregorio declined to confirm the names or any further information regarding the officials involved.

“The timing may not be obviously the best but definitely Fifa welcomes this process and cooperates fully with the Attorney General of Switzerland and the Federal Office of Justice,” de Gregario said.

“In this case Fifa is the damaged party. This leads to the fact that there were no searches in the offices of Fifa.

“The people of the Federal Attorney are here, we cooperate with them, we provide all the information requested by them. This is for our own interest.”

This Friday’s planned elections would go ahead, he said. And there were no plans to re-vote on the locations of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

“What do you expect from us — that we start to speculate and say that with Russia and Qatar we will have to re-do the voting.

Russia and Qatar will be played. This is what is fact today and I don’t go into speculation what will happen tomorrow.

James Nolan funeral John Delaney Source: PA WIRE

FAI reaction

“If it it wasn’t so serious it sounds like something out of a mafia movie,” FAI boss John Delaney, speaking to RTÉ radio, said this morning.

Nothing would surprise me at Fifa now, that’s the sad thing now.

While Uefa, the European governing body, is a “tremendous organisation” to work with, Delaney said – there has long been speculation of bribery and corruption within Fifa.

“There’s always controversy around Fifa and its decisions and its governance.

And the one person that’s always been at the head of that has been Sepp Blatter. And he has to take some responsibility at this stage.

Delaney, who said yesterday that the FAI wouldn’t be voting for him in the upcoming presidential election – reiterated that he thought Blatter should step down.

The governance of Fifa needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, Delaney said.

In my opinion he will win the election if takes place on Friday, but we won’t be voting for him. I don’t think we should.

However, he added that he believed the overnight events would “crystallise views” within Uefa – and that people would “take the view it’s time for a change”.

Fifa’s spokesman, meanwhile, said Blatter was “quite relaxed” this morning.

“…because he knows and he knew before that he is not involved. All the rest, he can accept what will happen.”

On a difficult day for Fifa, it was alleged by the US Attorney General that officials accepted bribes to help secure the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

It is also alleged that bribery was involved in Fifa’s 2011 presidential election and the 2016 Copa America tournament.

With reporting from Associated Press, Daragh Brophy, Niall Kelly and Paul Fennessy..

Read: ‘Fifa has an incredibly bad brand image’ – Delaney calls for Blatter to step down >

Read: Some of Sepp Blatter’s biggest critics arrested in Qatar >

 

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Rónán Duffy

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