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MOSCOW, May 27. /TASS/. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, told TASS on Wednesday he was ready to give evidence to Swiss prosecutors investigating the bids of Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
An unprecedented corruption scandal flared up in FIFA on Wednesday morning as seven of the organization’s high-ranking officials were arrested in Switzerland on bribery, money laundering and corruption charges. The scandal is divided into two separate investigations.
Firstly, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York is conducting a criminal investigation into the awarding of media, marketing and sponsorship rights for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America. Secondly, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General is conducting a criminal investigation into the selection of Russia as the host country for the 2018 World Cup and Qatar as the host country for 2022.
In an interview with TASS, Mutko said that upon a request from FIFA "Swiss prosecutors are investigating materials of bidding campaigns for the World Cup and this is what they informed us about."
"Members of the FIFA Executive Committee will be possibly asked to be questioned as part of the investigation, but I do not have the exact information about it now," he said. "In fact, I was already giving evidence on the issue, when the investigation was conducted by a special FIFA commission, and I have nothing to hide."
"If they ask me to do it again I see no problems at all," the Russian sports minister added.
The arrests of the seven FIFA top officials were made by the Swiss police at the request from the US authorities and they are now facing extradition to the United States.
The US Department of Justice said in its statement earlier in the day that a total of 14 people (nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives) were indicted for racketeering conspiracy and corruption.
"A 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer," the statement from the US justice body said.
FIFA plunged into the unprecedented corruption scandal on the eve of the organization’s annual congress in Zurich on May 28-29 with current President Sepp Blatter expected to be re-elected on Friday for another four-year term.
Speaking at an emergency news conference in Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon, FIFA’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs Walter De Gregorio described the crisis by saying that "This for FIFA is good."
Speaking about the possible impact of the scandal on the next two scheduled global football championships, De Gregorio said: "I can say what the [FIFA] president said earlier - the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 will be played in Russia and in Qatar [respectively."
"Russia and Qatar will be played and I don’t want to go into speculation what will be tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and so on," FIFA spokesman added.
Russia won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup over four years ago in a tight race against the joint bid from England, Portugal and Spain and the joint bid on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Russia selected 11 host cities to be the venues for the matches of the 2018 World Cup and they are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.
The matches of the 2018 World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15 at 12 stadiums located in the 11 mentioned above cities across Russia. Two of the stadiums are located in the Russian capital.