According to U.S. law, as long as a case involves the United States, the Department of Justice is authorized to indict foreign nationals outside its borders, with even a minor degree of involvement being no impediment. U.S. officials have alleged that within the International Federation of Association Football case, illegal exchanges were conducted within the United States and the money in question was also transferred through U.S. banks.
Several days ago at a meeting of FIFA officials in Zurich, Swiss and U.S. law enforcement launched a sudden joint action that resulted in the arrest of seven top officials attending the meeting, including vice presidents of FIFA executive committees and the heads of several nations’ soccer federations. It was a move that rocked the international sporting world, as those arrested are all right-hand men of sitting President Sepp Blatter. Although Blatter himself remains the favorite in the upcoming election for FIFA president on May 29, the outlook for him even after retaining his seat will be soon overshadowed by storm clouds on the horizon. At the same time, the global politics underlying the United States’ transnational manhunt are also worth considering.
The move certainly benefited from opportune timing. Abuses of power and corruption scandals within FIFA have been news for some time, while the domineering U.S. attitude that places its own laws above international regulations has been so for even longer. By timing its action to coincide with FIFA’s elections, a strong political flavor has been added to any judicial proceedings. There are two obvious reasons for this. First is that carrying out the arrests during the meeting has made a much larger splash in the media. And second, investigations into the rumors surrounding bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup have already begun to bear fruit.
There is also the fact that the location was convenient. According to the principle of personal jurisdiction within the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, regardless of whether an act of bribery occurs within or without U.S. borders, the United States has jurisdictional authority as soon as suspicion of the crime is established. And according to U.S. law, as long as a case involves the United States, the Department of Justice is authorized to indict foreign nationals outside its borders, with even a minor degree of involvement being no impediment. U.S. officials have alleged that in this case, illegal exchanges were conducted within the United States, while the money in question was also transferred through U.S. banks.
Moreover, according to the U.S.-Swiss extradition treaty, Switzerland can reject U.S. extradition requests in cases involving tax violations, but in most other criminal cases will generally extradite suspects to the United States. Consequently, the Swiss initiating the arrests in this particular case was standard procedure.
According to the principle of universal jurisdiction within the United Nations Convention against Corruption, utilizing joint judicial action to root out corrupt entities within international organizations is a responsibility of every signatory state, with which nation takes the lead being entirely irrelevant. Accordingly, when multilateral bodies or international treaties fail to deliver the results that the United States needs, mechanisms for bilateral or regional collaboration between “democratic nations” naturally become its best option.
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