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Menendez, McCain Sent Letter to FIFA Just Before Indictments

McCain joined with Menendez in sending a letter to FIFA on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Well, this timing was prescient.  

On Tuesday afternoon, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and John McCain, R-Ariz., fired off a letter to the FIFA Congress encouraging the international soccer governing body to reconsider granting a fifth term at the helm to President Sepp Blatter.  

The election had been scheduled for later this week at a meeting in Switzerland, but that plan may have to change after Swiss law enforcement agents swept through a hotel where top FIFA authorities gathered to round up officials on criminal charges in the United States, as The New York Times reported from Zurich.  

Nine officials with FIFA, as well as a handful of corporate executives have been indicted in Brooklyn on charges involving a racketeering conspiracy, including wire fraud and money laundering.  

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York, highlighted the breadth of the alleged corruption in statement released early Tuesday.  

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," she said. "It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks."  

"As charged in the indictment, the defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world," said FBI Director James B. Comey. "Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA.  I want to commend the investigators and prosecutors around the world who have pursued this case so diligently, for so many years."  

Much of the attention is related to the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, but Menendez and McCain were critical of Blatter for his backing of holding the 2018 contest in Russia, citing actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government in the territory of Ukraine.  

"More than 40 countries, all FIFA members, have imposed sanctions on Russia in an effort to influence events on the ground in Ukraine. By allowing Russia to host the tournament, FIFA would offer an economic lifeline to the Putin regime in contravention of the multilateral sanctions that have been imposed by the international community," the two senators wrote.  

"The next president of FIFA has a responsibility to ensure not only a safe and successful 2018 World Cup, but the endurance of the FIFA mission that claims to promote football 'globally in the light of its unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values,'" said Menendez and McCain. "We strongly encourage you to elect a president who will uphold these values and work to deny the Putin regime the privilege of hosting the 2018 World Cup."  

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