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$150 Million FIFA Corruption Scandal

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$150 Million FIFA Corruption Scandal

The Justice Department unsealed a 47-count indictment early Wednesday charging 14 world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, with racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud. Four of those accused, including two sports marketing companies, have already pleaded guilty and are likely to be cooperating.

Among the “alleged schemes,” said the Justice Department, were kickbacks to FIFA officials by executives and companies involved in soccer marketing and “bribes and kickbacks in connection” with “the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.” FIFA is the French abbreviation for the international Federation of Football Associations, the global governing body of soccer.

Swiss prosecutors, in a related announcement, said they had opened criminal proceedings against unidentified individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The separate Swiss probe includes “electronic data and documents” seized at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, the Swiss prosecutor’s office said. Swiss police said they will question at least 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010 that named Russia and Qatar as host nations for the next two tournaments.

But FIFA said those awards to Qatar and Russia would not be reconsidered.

The unsealing of the U.S. indictments early Wednesday followed a roundup of FIFA officials at a swanky hotel in Zurich, where the organization is headquartered and where an important meeting was planned. The Swiss said they were acting at the behest of the United States, which had requested the extradition of those arrested.

The allegations of corruption in the most popular sport on the planet surprised no one. For years, a shadow has hung over international soccer. Again and again, allegations have swirled around the sport’s organizing body, centering around accusations of rampant bribery in connection with FIFA decisions.

But the announcements that people were actually being arrested and criminally charged took the world by surprise and came in a rapid-fire series of events.

Around midnight Eastern time, the New York Times reported that indictments prepared in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn would be unsealed Wednesday. Then Swiss authorities, at dawn in Zurich, began making arrests. A Times reporter, tipped off, tweeted from the lobby of the five-star Baur au Lac hotel as arrests were being made.

The Justice Department announcement came in a press release around 5 a.m. Eastern time.

Those charged, the Justice Department said, “include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

“Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner — the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States — are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses,” the Justice Department said.

A search warrant was being executed at the continental confederation’s office in Miami, according to the Justice Department.

“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  “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.”

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Guilty pleas, according to Justice, have come from Charles Blazer, former general secretary of CONCACAF and a former U.S. representative on FIFA’s executive committee; Jose Hawilla, owner and founder of Traffic Group, a sports marketing conglomerate based in Brazil; and two of Hawilla’s companies, Traffic Sports International and Traffic Sports USA, based in Florida.

What appears to be a related investigation based in Switzerland centers on successful bids for upcoming World Cups in Russia and Qatar.

Those indicted, in addition to Webb and Warner, include:

Eduardo Li, current FIFA executive committee president and president of the Costa Rican soccer federation.

Julio Rocha, current FIFA development officer and former head of the Central American Football Union.

Costas Takkas, an attache and former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association.

Eugenio Figueredo, current FIFA vice president and executive committee members.

Rafael Esquivel, president of the Venezuelan soccer federation.

Jose Maria Marin, member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments.

Nicolas Leoz, former FIFA executive committee member.

Alejandro Burzaco, a sports marketing executive based in Argentina.

Aaron Davidson, president of Traffic Sports USA.

Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, principals of Full Play Group, a sports marketing business based in Argentina.

The pre-dawn operation and the U.S. indictments were the culmination of a three-year international investigation into the powerful soccer organization. They follow months of intensifying speculation and years of corruption accusations against FIFA, officially titled the Federation Internationale de Football Association. FIFA presides over international soccer and is in charge of awarding the World Cup. The organization currently sits on more than $1.5 billion in cash reserves, according to the Times.

The FBI, IRS and Justice Department are all involved in the investigation, which is being led by the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office.

The arrests come just two days before FIFA’s presidential elections. Current President Sepp Blatter is expected to win reelection but has come under withering criticism over the ongoing corruption investigation. Earlier this month he was forced to deny that he was a target of the probe and was avoiding traveling to the U.S.

Blatter is not one of the officials indicted. But the list does include several top FIFA officials, including executive committee members Webb and Figueredo (Uruguay), who until recently was the president of South America’s soccer association.

Aaron Davidson, president of Traffic Sports USA.

Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, principals of Full Play Group, a sports marketing business based in Argentina.

The pre-dawn operation and the U.S. indictments were the culmination of a three-year international investigation into the powerful soccer organization. They follow months of intensifying speculation and years of corruption accusations against FIFA, officially titled the Federation Internationale de Football Association. FIFA presides over international soccer and is in charge of awarding the World Cup. The organization currently sits on more than $1.5 billion in cash reserves, according to the Times.

The FBI, IRS and Justice Department are all involved in the investigation, which is being led by the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office.

The arrests come just two days before FIFA’s presidential elections. Current President Sepp Blatter is expected to win reelection but has come under withering criticism over the ongoing corruption investigation. Earlier this month he was forced to deny that he was a target of the probe and was avoiding traveling to the U.S.

Blatter is not one of the officials indicted. But the list does include several top FIFA officials, including executive committee members Webb and Figueredo (Uruguay), who until recently was the president of South America’s soccer association.

The selection of Russia and Qatar for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, respectively, were already controversial enough without being connected to corruption allegations. Critics have questioned the decision to award Russia the World Cup when the country is currently occupying Crimea, for example.

Qatar, meanwhile, has come under criticism for its treatment of migrant workers. A report commissioned by Qatar suggested a host of reforms, including blacklisting contractors that cut corners on safety. It also noted nearly 1,000 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh — the bulk the migrant labor force in the Gulf nation — died in Qatar in 2012 and 2013. About a quarter of the deaths were blamed on heart problems, while several dozen fatalities occurred on job sites.

Earlier this month, critics demanded World Cup sponsors pull out of Qatar over work conditions. And on Saturday, the Nepalese government said its citizens had not been allowed to leave Qatar to attend funerals for family members killed in the recent earthquake.

Wednesday’s arrests and indictments could still shake-up FIFA’s elections. A month ago, Blatter seemed bound for his fifth stint as president after fighting off several challengers, including former soccer star Luis Figo.

The indictments don’t reflect well on the incumbent, however. Although not indicted, Blatter hasn’t been cleared of wrongdoing either, the Times reported. A growing chorus of notable figures from within soccer have said it is time for him to step down. Earlier this week, after dropping out of the election, Figo called Blatter a “dictator.”

Blatter’s remaining opponent, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, has campaigned on a promise to clean up the organization. Earlier this week, he announced that he had been approached by someone offering to secure votes in exchange for money. Hussein said he took the information to the police.

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

International

Syria al-Qaeda Leader Attacked, Unsure of His Survival

An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

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An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

Syrian opposition forces, the Local Co-ordination Committees, posted a photo of the car which was targeted for the attack, as stated by them.

Car with roof shattered is shown in photo taken from Syrian opposition activists

The car, in the town of al-Mastuma, was targeted by “international coalition aircraft”, the group said.

Additionally, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an al-Qaeda official was killed in a strike, but did not confirm it was Abu al-Khayr al-Masri.

The Egyptian, whose real name is Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, was reportedly released from custody by Iran in 2015 as part of a prisoner swap.

Last year, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was reported to have given his blessing to a decision by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, to cut formal ties with the global jihadist network.

The Syrian jihadist with ties broken with al-Qaeda had renamed its name to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, as reported by CNN.

According to Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Masri, al-Qaeda has embraced the split. The man Masri would replace as an upranking to No. 2 of the leadership position in the terror group, is al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri expressed his opinion on the split in a supportive manner and called for infighting between jihadist groups to end.

Although Jabhat Fateh al-Sham was no longer linked to an external entity, the U.S. still kept it on its list of foreign terrorist groups and continued to target air strikes.

Therefore, in January, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham dissolved itself and formed an alliance with four smaller Syrian jihadist groups called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The move seemed to deem an attempt by the group to distance itself from al-Qaeda.

Tahrir al-Sham as since then fought rebel groups for control of the Idlib province in Syria, implying that it was them who had instigated suicide bombs on Saturday against the military in the government-controlled city of Homs.

Although the death of Abu al-Khayr al-Masri is uncertain, the Guardian has stated that he has been killed based off of what jihadists are stating.

The immediate circumstances of Masri’s death were unclear. Video online showed a tan four-door Kia sedan destroyed at a roadside with a large hole in its canopy but its windscreen mostly intact. The location of the attack was unusually far west for a US drone strike.

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International

Honor Killings are Never Justifiable, Not Ever or Anywhere!

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I have decided to shed some light on some insights about honor killings, amidst one that occurred in my parents’ home country, Pakistan, yesterday. An upcoming supermodel by the name of Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother in Multan, Paksitan while her parents were in their bedroom, asleep. The model was allegedly there to visit family or for other reasons. The brother who strangled her to death, reportedly after he drugged her, was interviewed and showed no remorse for his wrongdoing. Of course, what he did is inexcusable in all ways and is unsurpassable as a violation and a wrongdoing!

Baloch’s brother, who took her life, was embarrassed by his sister’s career as a supermodel and was aghast at her actions in this profession. This, however, can never justify the fact that he felt he had to end her life. Not only in this culture, mostly and especially in Pakistan’s rural areas, is this prevalent. It happens in other areas of the world and this is not attributable to Pakistanis or any type of Muslim or the religion itself, Islam. Anyway, surely you can recall the incident that was reported on television a few years ago. A man killed his daughter by running her over with a car, as well as her attempts to kill her boyfriend and his mother. He killed her because she had a boyfriend.

Oppressing women is not taught in any culture or religion, and is inexcusable in any way. A woman has the right to live however she pleases, at least I genuinely believe in this, and she should not have to fear for her life.

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Breaking News

Turkish Military Attempts to Overthrow President

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted to the nation Saturday that his government is in charge following a coup attempt brought a night of explosions, air battles, gunfire and unrest across the capital and left at least 90 dead, 1,154 people wounded and more than 1,000 military personnel detained.

In a press conference at Ataturk Airport, Erdogan said the architects of the coup attempt would “pay a heavy price” and vowed he would “not surrender this country to intruders.”

A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press that 1,563 military personnel have been detained in the coup attempt.

A Turkish lawmaker contacted by Reuters said he and his colleagues were hiding in special shelters in the bowels of the parliament building after at least three explosions near the complex in the capital, Ankara. Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman told the Associated Press a bomb hit one corner of a public relations building inside the parliament complex, injuring some police officers.

Elsewhere, troops also fired in the air to disperse a growing crowd of government supporters at the Taksim monument in Istanbul as military helicopters flew overhead. A nearby mosque made an anti-coup announcement over its loudspeakers.

Erdogan insisted that the coup attempt wouldn’t succeed.

“They have pointed the people’s guns against the people. The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge,” he said. “This government brought to power by the people, is in charge. They won’t succeed as long as we stand against them by risking everything.”

In his TV address, Erdogan blamed the attack on supporters of Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan has long accused the cleric and his supporters of attempting to overthrow the government. The cleric lives in exile in Pennsylvania and promotes a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.

Turkey’s allies, fellow NATO member nations and world leaders swiftly reacted Friday to an attempted coup Friday night, which could spur immense implications, not only in the Middle East, but also in the West.

“The United States views with gravest concern events unfolding in Turkey,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.

He said the State Department was “monitoring a fluid situation,” and “emphasized the United States’ absolute support for Turkey’s democratically-elected, civilian government and democratic institutions.”

The U.S. State Department urged U.S. citizens in Turkey to shelter in place during the attempted coup.

President Barack Obama had been briefed on the situation. “The president and secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint and avoid any violence or bloodshed,” a White House statement said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a tweet that he spoke with the Turkish foreign minister. “I call for calm, restraint & full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and constitution,” Stoltenberg wrote, without saying what actions, if any, NATO would take. Turkey joined NATO in 1952.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for calm as the world body sought to clarify the situation, said a U.N. spokesman.

“The Secretary-General is closely following developments in Turkey. He is aware of the reports of a coup attempt in the country. The United Nations is seeking to clarify the situation on the ground and appeals for calm,” said spokesman Farhan Haq.

Britain’s government was also monitoring the turmoil. “We are concerned by events unfolding in Ankara and Istanbul. Our Embassy is monitoring the situation closely,” a British foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also said he was “very concerned.”

The foreign minister of Turkey’s neighbor to the east said he was “deeply concerned about the crisis in Turkey.”

“Stability, democracy & safety of Turkish people are paramount. Unity & prudence are imperative,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet.

Slovakia, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, said on Saturday it was following the events unfolding in Turkey with serious concern, and was coordinating appropriate reaction with EU partners.

“Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak has been in intensive contact all evening with EU high foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini and other European colleagues,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“He has also been in contact with partners in the Turkish government with the aim to clarify the situation in Turkey and discuss steps that the EU should take with the aim to maintain and support democracy and stability in the country.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was “in constant contact with EU delegation in Ankara and Brussels from Mongolia.” She called for “restraint and respect for democratic institutions.”

The Kremlin said it was gravely concerned. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that President Vladimir Putin was being kept constantly updated on the situation in Turkey.

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