The question is: Why now? Why, after years of wire-tapping soccer officials, following paper trails around the world and prosecuting minor players, have the U.S. authorities finally launched their huge sting operation into the most powerful sporting body in the world?
It is not just about the fact that the new U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch wanted to make a high profile debut or that whistleblower Chuck Blazer had delivered up proof that FIFA officials accepted bribes over the World Cup tournaments.
The American investigation into FIFA was able to coalesce because Switzerland, where FIFA is based, changed its laws. The country’s legal framework had been designed to protect the rich and powerful, but in recent years it has tried to become more open.
In December, the country changed its laws, and ruled that the heads of sports organizations based in Switzerland, could be designated as “Politically Exposed Persons” and subject to corruption investigations.
And Wednesday, just a day after FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter unexpectedly announced his resignation, the Swiss parliament voted in favor of another set of legislation that makes it possible to launch corruption probes against FIFA and other international sporting federations within Switzerland.
Until now, the only way to attack corruption in Switzerland was through anti-competition laws.
“The U.S. may well have decided to wait until Switzerland beefed up its legislation, so it could help in this investigation,” Donald Rebovitch, a New York-based specialist in economic crimes told Handelsblatt Global Edition. “It certainly helps the U.S. to have the cooperation of the Swiss police here.”