Swiss authorities arrested seven FIFA officials early Wednesday in Zurich amid a corruption investigation into international soccer, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.


DOJ officials unsealed a 47-count indictment against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives on Wednesday morning, with charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

Separately, Swiss authorities have opened another criminal investigation into FIFA, namely its allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in Russia and Qatar.

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), which regulates and promotes soccer worldwide, is the primary focus of the DOJ probe, which also targets current and former officials in South America and the Caribbean.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch slammed FIFA and those charged in the indictment, saying corruption "is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States."

The indictment alleges that U.S. and South American executives involved in marketing the sport paid more than $150 million "in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights" for international soccer tournaments.

The probe covers alleged schemes stretching back to 1991, and includes the U.S. Soccer Federation — one of 41 member associations in the Central American and Caribbean Association Football Conference (Concacaf) — and the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol).

"I think FIFA has a lot of soul-searching to do," Lynch said during a press conference late Wednesday morning. 

Lynch said the defendants had agreed to pay back the more than $150 million in the probe, which looked at tournaments including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but not the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Those funds will be set aside "for what would be court-ordered retribution for those who would be the ultimate victims here," said Kelly Currie, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lynch's former district. 

Currie could not identify specific victims, outside of those who support "soccer at large" such as fans and organizations, and suggested doling out the funds would be left to courts.

"Soccer, 'futbol,' is an egalitarian game. It's a beautiful game because the field is flat. It is available to anyone and everyone, rich or poor, boy or girl," FBI Director James Comey said during the press briefing.

Comey said the defendants in the case "hijacked" the game and "tilted" the playing field for those looking to gain from countries and children. 

In a statement, FIFA said it welcomed "actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football."

Those FIFA officials arrested will not be automatically suspended from their roles, FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio said, according to CNN.

FIFA officials are gathered in Zurich for their internal election Friday, when President Sepp Blatter is expected to gain his fifth term. He was not among those officials charged in the indictment.

Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-N.J.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP Michelle Malkin knocks Cokie Roberts shortly after her death: 'One of the first guilty culprits of fake news' Arizona Democratic Party will hold vote to censure Sinema MORE (R-Ariz.) in a letter released Tuesday called on FIFA Congress to elect a different president who might deny Russia the World Cup in 2018.

“These allegations are deeply troubling and strengthen the case for full scale reform within FIFA," Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyEx-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines MORE (D-Pa.) said in a statement.

"The reports raise serious doubts about the process that awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The U.S. presented strong bids and now it appears that those bids may have been undercut by a rigged process,” he added.

— This report was updated at 11:58 a.m.