In May 2015, federal prosecutors announced the arrest of multiple officials of the International Federation of Association Football, commonly known by the acronym FIFA, and associated organizations. The charges in United States v. Webb, et al., No. 1:15-cr-00252, indictment (E.D.N.Y., May 20, 2015), include fraud, bribery, and conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. The arrests took place in Switzerland, and only two of the 14 defendants are U.S. citizens. The allegations in the case are truly international in scope (”FIFA” stands for “Fédération Internationale de Football Association”), so they raise questions about how federal prosecutors assert jurisdiction.
FIFA organizes many of the world’s major international soccer tournaments, including the quadrennial World Cup tournament. It is headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland, and consists of 209 national soccer associations. Members are divided into six confederations, which may be further divided into regional groups. The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) is a FIFA member and is part of the Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), and the regional group, the North American Football Union (NAFU).
The allegations in the government’s 161-page indictment describe a range of allegedly corrupt acts, including alleged bribery during the selection of the site for the 2010 World Cup. FIFA’s executive committee was charged in 2004 with choosing among Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa to host the tournament. The indictment claims that one committee member, who is now a defendant, was offered $1 million by Morocco’s soccer committee and $10 million by the equivalent organization in South Africa. The committee member voted for South Africa, and the 2010 World Cup was held in Johannesburg.
The indictment describes FIFA, its executive committee, and various sub-organizations as “enterprises” under the RICO Act. 18 U.S.C. § 1961(4). It alleges 47 counts, including wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1343; money laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2)(A); obstruction of justice, 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2); and racketeering conspiracy to commit the previous offenses, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(d), 1963. It also alleges five counts of tax fraud, 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2); and one count of immigration fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a), 8 U.S.C. § 1451(e).
Among the defendants are two U.S. citizens, one of whom is a dual citizen of Uruguay. Three defendants are citizens of Argentina. Two are from Brazil. One defendant is from each of the following countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela. Finally, one defendant is a citizen of the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory. Many, and possibly most, of the events described in the indictment took place outside the U.S., and while some of the allegedly fraudulent acts involved CONCACAF events, others did not.
Given the international nature of the case, how do federal prosecutors claim jurisdiction over this matter? Put simply, because of money. The defendants and their enterprise, prosecutors claim, “frequently engaged in banking and investment activities with United States financial institutions.” Webb, indictment at 2. Furthermore, they allege that “[t]he enterprise operated in the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, including overseas.” Id. Federal prosecutors have obtained jurisdiction in this way many times in the past.
These blog posts are meant to be illustrative only. Unless expressly stated to the contrary herein, these matters are not the result of any legal work of Michael J. Brown, but are used to communicate a particular point of view. Michael J. Brown does not claim credit for any legal work done by any lawyer or law firm either generally or specifically, with respect to the matters contained in this blog.
Michael J. Brown, a board-certified white-collar crime attorney, defends people charged with alleged white-collar offenses, drug offenses, and other offenses in west Texas state and federal courts. Contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157 to schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable legal advocate.
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Federal Court Sentences Physician in Health Care Fraud Case, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 30, 2015