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Top FIFA Exec Suspended After Alleged World Cup Tickets Scheme

FIFA announced today that it has suspended Secretary General Jérôme Valcke "until further notice," following allegations that he was involved in an operation to improperly profit from World Cup ticket sales.

The world soccer governing body also said in the statement said it has requested a formal investigation by FIFA's Ethics Committee.

The allegations against Valcke have been made by a consultant, Benny Alon, who worked for a company that at one point had a contract with FIFA to sell tickets for the 2014 World Cup, according to theGuardian.

"Documents seen by the Guardian appear to suggest that Valcke was to be the beneficiary of an agreement to sell the tickets at inflated prices. However the documents are incomplete, selective and could easily be open to other interpretations. One email from the consultant, Benny Alon, apparently sent to Valcke, states in reference to the sale of tickets to group matches at the 2014 World Cup: 'we made US$114,000 each on Germany.' However it has been suggested that no tickets were actually ever sold."

Valcke denies any wrongdoing.

FIFA has been under global pressure for its alleged rampant corruption, which culminated in the indictment of 14 FIFA officials and the arrest of seven in May on charges including bribery, racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud. Valcke was not named in those documents, though he was accused of transferring $10 million as part of an alleged bribe to help South Africa win the right to host the 2010 World Cup. While he was not prosecuted in that instance, these newest allegations were enough to prompt FIFA to put him on leave. This action against Valcke, who was FIFA President Sepp Blatter's right-hand man since 2007, casts further suspicion on Blatter himself who has long been suspected of corruption.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also made waves in the soccer world this week when, during a trip to Zurich where FIFA is headquartered, she vowed to bring further charges against entities and individuals in relation to FIFA corruption.

"Separate and apart from the pending indictment, our investigation remains active and ongoing. It has in fact expanded since May. The scope of our investigation is not limited and we are following the evidence where it leads. We do anticipate pursuing additional charges against individuals and entities."

Meanwhile, one of the seven officials arrested in May, Eugenio Figueredo, was just approved for extradition to the U.S. today, where he will face charges of accepting millions of dollars worth of bribes relating to South American soccer tournaments.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Wagner