The FBI is expanding its probe of FIFA to investigate the selection of Qatar and Russia to host the next two World Cups.
The expanded probe comes amid allegations of bribery at soccer's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), and the indictment of several officials on corruption charges by the Justice Department.
A U.S. law enforcement official told Reuters on Wednesday that the probe would look into how Russia and Qatar secured the winning bids during the selection process. Russia was awarded the right to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar to host in 2022.
Qatari and Russia officials were quick to criticize the FBI’s move and have denied any wrongdoing.
Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah said his nation deserved to host the 2022 World Cup as it had made the best bid.
“It is very difficult for some to digest that an Arab Islamic country has this tournament, as if this right can’t be for an Arabic state,” he said during an interview in Paris.
“I believe it is because of prejudice and racism that we have this bashing campaign against Qatar."
Qatar's bid has sparked outrage from human rights groups who have drawn attention to the deaths of as many as 1,200 migrant workers in the country as it prepares to host soccer's most prestigious tournament.
Russia, meanwhile, dismissed claims it might forfeit its 2018 hosting rights over the probe.
“Cooperation with FIFA is going on, and most importantly, Russia is continuing preparations for the 2018 World Cup,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House on Wednesday also pressed FIFA to clean up possible corruption in its ranks.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the organization could “benefit from some new leadership."
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not one of the officials indicted last week, but U.S. officials have said he is a focus of their investigation.
The initial U.S. indictment alleged that FIFA marketing executives paid more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks for media and marketing rights for soccer games since 1991. The DOJ unveiled a 47-count indictment last week.
Swiss authorities are conducting their own investigation into FIFA.