* We're still awaiting details, but the Swiss Attorney General's office has acknowledged to AP that the National Police raided FIFA Headquarters in Zurich late yesterday. "Documents and electronic date were seized" according to a spokesman, who declined to give further information.
After all these years of scrupulously keeping his nose clean - no small feat when your two biggest associates in soccer are Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer - USSF President Sunil Gulati finds himself accused of what, to some, looks a lot like attempting to pay off a FIFA official on behalf of his best bud new FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
It's a bit long, but stick with me: it does require some background but the payoff is there or your money back.
Barely three months after FIFA supposedly cleaned house, elected a reformer, changed the governance system and ushered in a new era of comity, transparency and fair play, the organization finds itself awash in lies, arrogance and greed.
Stop me if you've heard this before.
This latest chapter began roughly three weeks ago at the FIFA Congress in Mexico City when, at the last possible minute, without discussion or announcement, FIFA inserted some startling language into a long, boring governance resolution.
It allowed the new FIFA Council (nee ExCo) - chaired by new President Gianni Infantino - to replace, without cause, recourse or open debate, any or all members of the three "Completely Independent Committees" which were set up to make sure the organization was on the up and up: Audit, Ethics and Finance.
The very next day, Audit & Compliance Chairman Domenico Scala, one of the beacons of honesty at FIFA and the man primarily responsible for having Sepp Blatter removed from power, resigned his position,
Scala issued a public letter saying that the members were being "deprived of their independence" and that he was "consternated about this decision, because it undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms."
"It will henceforth be possible for the council to impede investigations against single members at any time, by dismissing the responsible committee members or by keeping them acquiescent through the threat of a dismissal," Scala added.
FIFA responded by saying that Scala "misinterpreted" the intent of the measure, which was intended to allow the Council to allow for the "swift removal of members who have breached their obligations."
Infantino expanded on this theme, telling reporters that this was a "simple administrative step" which should be judged over time. Unfortunately, Infantino is the main guy in charge of the judging, and now he and his cronies have the ability to fire anybody they don't like for whatever reason they choose and replace them with stooges willing to get in line.
Which, not to put too fine a point on it, is exactly like the way the last guy ran the place before these same committees - whose members were then beyond his control - charged him and Michel Platini with playing fast and loose with the petty cash.
Infantino has now corrected that little problem.
And then it got really interesting.
First, Markus Kattner, longtime Deputy Secretary General to the ousted and disgraced Jerome Valcke - Kattner being that guy who chaired the FIFA Election and made all those speeches about honesty, transparency and blah, blah, blah - was fired less than a week after the Congress for paying himself millions of dollars in "bonuses" which supposedly nobody knew anything about.
Since this has been going on for a decade, many observers questioned whether the real problem was that he knew too much and had too much power within the administration. Interestingly, despite claiming the guy stole two million bucks, FIFA will apparently not be referring Kattner to the authorities for criminal charges.
This was closely followed by the announcement that Infantino had named as the new Secretary General - the person who runs FIFA day-to-day and who the new governance setup grants a lot of the power previously given to the President - one Fatma Soumara, a Senegalese diplomat who has been working for the UN in Nigeria.
While Soumara seems to be an intelligent and engaging person, her main qualifications are that she is African and owns a vagina. Apparently nothing else in the way of, you know, actual experience managing a multi-billion dollar corporation or sports enterprise or that sort of thing is necessary. I guess Loretta Lynch turned them down. Pity.
And shockingly, Soumara has not been asked to submit to the mandatory "integrity check" which is now required for all FIFA employees and candidates for office. No one is sure why, and FIFA refuses to explain.
Not to worry, says Infantino, he'll provide all the guidance she'll need with that, you know, soccer and business stuff, and promptly announced that henceforth the two main duties of the Secretary General - the Competitions/Development Department and the Administrative/Finance Department, will helpfully be split off and assigned to the management of two personal cronies, including Zvonimir Boban, the former Croatia midfielder who has accompanied Infantino on his recent travels around the world.
No one is sure how Boban's suitcase carrying and door-holding skills will translate to being in charge of FIFA's Development and Competitions efforts but no matter; Infantino will surely be around to "help" with that stuff too.
The other old Infantino crony, the one in charge of Finance & Admin, is one Marco Villiger. Remember the name.
Meanwhile, since all the practical duties of the Secretary-General have now been assigned to other people, no one can quite say what Soumara's job will entail, but we're certain it'll be important. And lucrative.
And here's where it starts to get really interesting for our man Sunil:
You may recall that, as discussed in this space and elsewhere, under the new governance system, the President was to be paid substantially less than Sepp took home. The rationale was, in part, because they were reducing the Presidents powers and duties, a circumstance which, as we're seeing, Infantino is quickly moving to address.
We've since learned that Blatter was paid $3 million a year and the new guidelines called for that to be reduced to $2 million for Infantino and his successors, making it equal with the GenSec. Still a pretty decent chunk of change but Gianni feels he should get what Seppy got.
Almost immediately after the election, rumors began popping up that Infantino was refusing to sign a contract, saying that the salary was too low.
The roadblock to Infantino getting more than the allotted salary:
Dominico Scala, head of the previously independent Finance and Audit committee, who steadfastly refused to sign off on a deal which went beyond $2 million.
Which brings us to yesterday when reports from various sources in Germany and Switzerland stated that evidence had been uncovered which spoke of "deleting" an audio tape of the FIFA Council meeting held in Mexico City just prior to last month's Congress.
Since these meetings, as part of their much-ballyhooed commitment to "transparency", are now required to be recorded and archived, this presented something of a problem.
FIFA immediately responded that these reports were - direct quote -"ludicrous". No such thing happened and shame on the liars who are saying these dreadful things.
Then someone came up with a copy of an Infantino email in which he clearly orders the tape destroyed.
At which point FIFA said that while Infantino DID order the tape destroyed, it was actually a second recording or "rogue copy" of the meeting which was somehow bad or flawed or something. They're not too sure, but take their word for it.
FAZ also reports that on the tape Infantino calls the $2 million offer "insulting" and tells the committee that Scala has initiated an Ethics complaint against him just because he is negotiating to buy a house in Zurich for $25,000,000 and he doesn't seem to have anything like that kind of money or credit.
Clearly Infantino is angry with this guy and wants him gone, and everybody at FIFA is, as usual, eager to please the President.
THEN, it turns out, the audio tape which does or does not exist also contains USSF President Sunil Gulati explaining that he had several meetings with Scala in which he tried to induce him to quit as head of the Audit Committee. Whether this involved money, couched as a possible "retirement bonus" or "severance package" is unknown at this time.
Gulati tells them that, despite repeated attempts, Scala refused to resign and goes on to state that as the rules then stood, the man could not be fired without cause.
Which is when they decided to rewrite the rules and sneak the change into the procedures for the Congress, knowing that nobody much would notice.
Only England FA President David Gill objects to the plot to oust Scala, saying that he has yet to hear a single valid reason he could possibly tell anyone as to why he had to be fired. Even Gulati is heard saying that they can't simply fire the guy with no reason.
In reply to being called liars, FAZ has released part of the transcript,which has this exchange between Gulati and Infantino:
Gulati: “We met a number of times in the last 24 hours. We thought we had a resolution, a friendly resolution that would work. We did not get that realised, we do not have that right now.”
Infantino: “We’ll see if it’s possible for him to step down. If he does not we will ask the delegates for this question (the statute change) to (be) pass (ed) by the congress.”
“The congress should decide, it is a democratic decision. I think it is better if it comes from the congress than if it comes from the council in one week or two weeks. Because then it is all a personal thing which is not (what we want). Is there any preference here for a congress vote or a dismissal by the Council in one week or two weeks?”
This, they all agree, will likely make him quit on his own, which it subsequently did.
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claims to have copies of internal FIFA emails wherein Infantino orders that in addition to deleting the tape, no written transcription of the meeting be made.
The guy he sent this order to was his boy Marco Villiger. See above under "Toady".
A Swiss newspaper now says that the Ethics Committee has begun preliminary inquiries which could lead to Infantino being given a 90 day suspension. FIFA responded with a non-denial denial:
“We are not in a position to indicate if we have or have not undertaken preliminary investigatory proceedings against an individual. We would however like to point out that there are no formal proceedings going on against Mr Infantino.”
Bottom line, it does appear from the transcript that USSF President Sunil Gulati participated in a plot to remove the head of FIFA's Audit & Compliance Committee so that his pal Gianni could get himself another million bucks.
Waiting to hear from Silent Sunil.