Washington - The multi-million dollar
corruption scandal engulfing FIFA widened on Thursday with 16 people indicted
by US justice officials who pledged an unremitting crackdown on an
"outrageous" betrayal of trust.
The latest dramatic twist in a long-running
saga began with a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel where Swiss authorities
arrested South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) president Juan Angel
Napout, and Alfredo Hawit, head of the Confederation of North, Central American
and Caribbean (CONCACAF).
Hours later, the two appeared on a list
released in Washington of 16 men - all from the same two confederations -
indicted on charges of corruption.
They included Ricardo Teixeira, the former
head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and a former FIFA vice-president;
Ariel Alvarado, a Panamanian who sits on FIFA's disciplinary committee; and
Rafael Callejas, president of Honduras 1990-1994 and former head of the
Honduran football federation.
"The message should be clear to every
culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our
investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus,"
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.
Lynch also revealed that eight other people
indicted since authorities launched an earlier wave of FIFA raids in
Switzerland in May had now pleaded guilty.
Among those were Jeffrey Webb, a former
FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF, who has admitted racketeering and
As part of his plea deal, he has agreed to
forfeit more than $6.7 million in assets.
Webb and banned former CONCACAF chief Jack
Warner, who was indicted earlier, were also accused of siphoning off cash
intended for disaster relief, according to the new indictment.
Hawit, a Honduran national, and Napout of
Paraguay are both opposing extradition to the United States, the Swiss justice
ministry (FOJ) said.
Both are suspected of taking millions of
dollars in bribes in return for selling marketing rights for regional
tournaments and World Cup qualifying matches, the FOJ said.
Hawit's predecessor in charge of football
in Honduras insisted that he had done nothing wrong.
"He assured and guaranteed that he was
not involved in anything illicit," Callejas said.
FIFA's remaining leadership approved a
series of measures aimed at improving transparency and curbing the authority of
the body's much-maligned executive committee, which has emerged as an epicentre
The measures include a 12-year term limit
for FIFA's president and other senior leaders, public disclosure of
compensation for top officials and a pledge to include more women in senior
They must be approved at a meeting of
FIFA's 209-member associations in February, when a replacement will also be
chosen for the organisation's suspended president Sepp Blatter, who is the
subject of a Swiss criminal investigation.
The head of the reform effort, Francois
Carrard, told journalists that the measures offered FIFA an opportunity
"to renew itself."
Acting president Issa Hayatou, also
implicated in previous corruption allegations, said on Thursday's arrests
"underscore the need to establish a complete programme of reforms."
Despite the pledges for change, outsiders,
including major corporate sponsors, may remain sceptical of whether FIFA is
capable of fixing itself.
The arrests were carried out at the
five-star Baur au Lac hotel, a favourite of FIFA's officials, and the same spot
where seven football executives were arrested in May on charges of corruption
dating back decades.
Blatter has been suspended for 90-days and
is facing tougher punishment by FIFA's ethics watchdog.
The man who had been tipped to succeed him,
European football chief Michel Platini, has also been suspended over taking a
$2 million payment and could be hit with a lifetime ban from football by the
end of the month.
Aside from term limits, a full
restructuring of the executive committee was approved.
Both Hawit and Napout sit on the executive
committee, although their arrests may trigger swift suspensions by the ethics
The Swiss justice ministry said the two had
been arrested following requests from the United States issued on November 29.
Prosecutors in New York suspect the two
"of accepting bribes of millions of dollars," the FOJ statement said.
The arrests, and the meeting on reforms,
came on the fifth anniversary of the 2010 vote that controversially awarded the
2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
Before his suspension, Blatter tipped
Carrard to lead a reform drive, after the Swiss lawyer had been widely praised
for cleaning up a rotten International Olympic Committee more than a decade
Carrard told reporters that the panel had
scrapped an idea for a 74-year age limit for senior officials, calling it
But in a surprise move, his panel proposed
expanding the World Cup from 32 teams to 40 in 2026 to broaden inclusion at the
world's premier sports event, although it was not immediately clear how that
would aid anti-corruption efforts.
The plan has not yet been approved by the
executive committee and remains under review.
Carrard and Hayatou faced tough questions
as to whether FIFA insiders could be part of the effort to clean up their act.
"I am aware that the road will be
difficult," Carrard said, but stressed that "if you want to achieve reform
it must also be carried out from within."