Sepp Blatter Announces Resignation Amidst FIFA Corruption Scandal - HISTORY

Sepp Blatter Announces Resignation Amidst FIFA Corruption Scandal

On June 2, 2015, President of FIFA Sepp Blatter—just a few days removed from being reelected to a fifth four-year term—resigns amid rumors that he will be under investigation by the U.S. and Sweden on charges of fraud and corruption. All over the world, soccer fans rejoiced, as Blatter’s 17-year term had been marred with allegations of misdeeds, seemingly from the very beginning.

At the time of his resignation Blatter was not officially charged with any crimes, but the writing may have been on the wall for the then 79-year-old. The week before, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had announced an investigation into FIFA that, according to the Los Angeles Times, had “uncovered decades of bribery totaling more than $150 million.” In all, 14 people, nine of whom were current or former FIFA executives, were indicted on federal racketeering charges. Seven were arrested near FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

The charges alleged widespread corruption over a 24-year period, including wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Officials were also accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks, and even of buying and selling their votes for countries like Russia, Qatar and South Africa to get a chance to host the World Cup.

In another plot twist, Blatter announced four days later that he would, in fact, continue as president, but only until a new election could be conducted in 2016. Over the next few weeks, it became unclear if the embattled executive would step down at all, leading to some awkward press statements from FIFA, who assured the world that Blatter would, indeed, be “laying down his mandate” and stepping down.

Blatter’s claims of innocence soon took an even bigger hit. In september of the same year, the Swedish government accused him of signing a contract with former Caribbean football chief Jack Warner—thought to revolve around TV rights—that was "unfavourable to FIFA." He was also accused of making a “disloyal payment” using FIFA funds to Michel Platini, then the president of the European Football Association.

Though Blatter was cleared of corruption charges, the Swedish investigation inspired the FIFA ethics committee to conduct its own. In that December, Blatter was suspended from FIFA for 8 years for writing the illegal $2 million check to Platini. His appeal was rejected in 2016, but his sentence was reduced to a 6-year ban. In June of 2017, Fifa revealed that Blatter and two other high-ranking members had stolen $80 million in "a coordinated effort to enrich themselves through annual salary increases, World Cup bonuses and other incentives" over a five-year period.

In February of 2016, Gianni Infantino, Platini's right-hand man at UEFA, was elected to replace Blatter as FIFA president. With the new administration came reforms that put limits on presidential terms, and a replacement of the executive committee with a 36-member council.


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