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Fifa in the dock: Jim Boyce urges FBI to weed out corruption as probe into alleged £98m bribery scandal launched

By Chris Green

Published 28/05/2015

Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce
Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce
Journalists and TV crews gather outside Fifa headquarters in Zurich yesterday
Corruption in Fifa

Fifa's Northern Irish vice-president has said any individuals in world football's governing body found guilty of dishonesty and corruption should be dealt with in the "strongest possible manner" by the law.

Jim Boyce admitted it was a sad day for football after a wave of officials were arrested and the launch of two separate criminal investigations sparked the biggest crisis in the sport's history.

The former Cliftonville chairman will step down as Fifa vice-president tomorrow to be replaced by Manchester United director David Gill.

"Everyone knows my views on these issues and Fifa has accepted that these matters should be investigated thoroughly," he said.

"This is another sad day for Fifa. I hope the investigations that Fifa have themselves initiated will lead to those individuals - if found guilty of dishonesty and corruption - (being) dealt with in the strongest possible manner by the law authorities."

Mr Boyce replaced the controversial Jack Warner in 2011. Warner, from Trinidad, is one of those indicted by the FBI and is alleged to have rigged Fifa's 2011 presidential election.

Trinidad and Tobago issued a warrant for his arrest following a request from the US and he later turned himself in.

According to the indictment, Mr Warner arranged for envelopes containing $40,000 in cash to be given as a "gift" to officials in return for their votes. He is alleged to have told colleagues: "There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou. If you're pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business." Yesterday, he insisted that he was "innocent of any charges".

In total, nine Fifa officials accepted bribes and kickbacks totalling hundreds of millions of dollars over more than 20 years, in return for awarding lucrative tournaments to certain countries and rigging Fifa's own presidential elections, US prosecutors alleged.

On the same day, Swiss authorities announced a separate investigation into "criminal mismanagement" and money laundering surrounding the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, throwing the future of both tournaments into doubt.

The allegations leave the Fifa president Sepp Blatter - who was due to be re-elected tomorrow despite widespread concerns that corruption has flourished during his 17-year reign - looking isolated and vulnerable. Although not one of those indicted, Swiss prosecutors indicated that he could soon be questioned.

Last night Mr Blatter issued a statement insisting that he welcomed the investigations. It did not address demands for him to consider his own future. "I know the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us," he said. "As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that Fifa has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football."

The 47-count charge sheet filed in a New York court detailed 12 separate corrupt schemes allegedly carried out by the officials. In total, they are alleged to have accepted bribes amounting to more than $150m (£98m) over a 24-year period beginning in 1991.

One of the schemes allegedly involved the soliciting of a $10m bribe from the South African government ahead of its successful bid for the 2010 World Cup.

At a Press conference, Richard Weber, the head of the criminal investigation unit at the US Internal Revenue Service, described what the men had done as "the World Cup of fraud". The US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, added that the Fifa officials had used their positions of trust to solicit bribes "over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament".

The nine arrested Fifa officials, who are charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies, include one of its vice-presidents, Jeffrey Webb, who was seen as a voice for reform. Five other men, including four executives of sports management companies, have also been charged.

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