Vladimir Putin condemned the U.S. after authorities arrested several high-level FIFA officials for corruption. The Russian President insists that the investigation is revenge against FIFA President Sepp Blatter, after he refused to deny Russia a bid to host the World Cup. Russia won the bid to host the international football competition in 2018; Qatar will host the games in 2022.
So far, the U.S. has indicted 18 people in the FIFA corruption probe. Seven have been arrested in Switzerland and face extradition. The U.S. Justice Department suspects them of receiving $150 million dollars in bribes. U.S. authorities allege that businessmen secured marketing rights, clothing sponsorship deals and other lucrative contracts from the games with bribery and fraud.
A parallel investigation from Switzerland is looking into potential “money mismanagement” in the 2018 and 2022 bidding processes, bringing Russia and Qatar into the fray.
According to CNN, some people, like British Prime Minister David Cameron, are calling for FIFA President Blatter to step down. He will soon face reelection from the Congress of FIFA officials for a fifth term. Although things look dark for the Blatter, the embattled president has one staunch ally: Vladimir Putin.
According to Bloomberg, Putin insists that the only reason America is suddenly interested in FIFA corruption is that Blatter ignored requests to bar Russia from the bidding process.
“Unfortunately, our American partners are using such methods to reach their own selfish goals and are doing it illegally, persecuting people. (If any wrongdoing occurred) it didn’t happen on U.S. territory and the U.S. has nothing to do with it.”
President Barack Obama and high-level officials in the executive have not weighed in on Putin’s statements or whether Blatter should resign, but a few senators did.
In a letter to the FIFA Congress, Senators John McCain and Robert Menendez called out Putin and Blatter, asking the congress to reconsider its support.
“In light of President Blatter’s continued support Russia hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup — despite Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and other challenges to the post-WWII security architecture — we ask that you reconsider your support for President Blatter’s fifth term as FIFA President.”
State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke tried to counter Putin, according to Yahoo News, saying the arrests had nothing to do with influencing the FIFA president’s reelection.
“There’s a clear message from the United States that… corrupt conduct is not acceptable. And that’s the focus of the indictment and our cooperation in the arrests yesterday.”
He went on to say that the corruption probe should have no effect on Russian-U.S. relations.
Still, Vladimir Putin went on to criticize the U.S. for jumping to conclusions before a fair trial.
“The United States Attorney General has already stated that these officers of the FIFA executive committee have committed a crime, as though (the) prosecutor is unaware of the presumption of innocence. Only a court can find a person guilty or not guilty, and only after that can anyone say anything.”
With Vladimir Putin’s comments, it looks like the FIFA investigation has become a little more interesting.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]