Editor's Note: This op-ed originally appeared in Daily Beast and was written by Enough Project Founding Director John Prendergast and Senior Policy Analyst for Natural Resources & Conflict J.R. Mailey.
The arrest of two FIFA officials last week in Switzerland was an important milestone for soccer’s governing body. The criminals who brought the organization to its knees are finally being removed and paying a price, paving the way for FIFA to begin rebuilding its tattered reputation and legitimacy.
Over the last two decades, FIFA devolved into a kleptocracy. A searing indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice paints a picture of an organization hijacked by a dozen or so powerful insiders who abused their power to siphon off millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. These men went to great lengths to facilitate, disguise, routinize, and provide cover for their illicit dealings, often using shell companies and secret bank accounts to cover their tracks.
Theft was not simply an objective, however, as critics claim that FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his cronies retained power through “years of unethical patronage, favors and handouts.”
Now, just imagine if crooks like the ones who were running FIFA hijacked an entire government…