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Sepp Blatter welcomes probe into FIFA, wants to 'restore trust'

FIFA provisionally banned 11 of its members on Wednesday after it was plunged into crisis when Swiss authorities in Zurich arrested seven football officials for alleged racketeering, conspiracy and corruption, and its president, Sepp Blatter, said he welcomed the probe to root out wrongdoing in football.

"Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game," Blatter said.

"This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organisation. We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us." 

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that two current FIFA vice presidents were among those arrested and indicted, Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay. The others are Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil.

All seven are connected with the regional confederations of North and South America and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Nine of the 14 who were indicted by the Justice Department are football officials, while four are sports marketing executives, and another works in broadcasting. On Wednesday, FIFA's independent ethics committee provisionally banned 11 from football-related activities, including Webb, Li, Rocha, Takkas, Jack Warner, Figueredo, Esquivel, Marin, Leoz, Blazer and Daryll Warner.

CONCACAF said via statement that it will fully cooperate with the investigation and added that it would not comment further on the allegations "which have been referred to the appropriate legal counsel through the pertinent channels."

"CONCACAF continues to operate in the ordinary course of business, hosting all of its upcoming tournaments in a successful and timely manner, including the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup."

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the indictment alleged "corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States'' and that it "spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks'' and Blatter, who was not arrested, said that he wanted to restore the public's trust in FIFA.

"As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the U.S. and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football," Blatter said. "While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take.

"In fact, today's action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year. Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.

"Following the events of today, the independent Ethics Committee -- which is in the midst of its own proceedings regarding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups -- took swift action to provisionally ban those individuals named by the authorities from any football-related activities at the national and international level.

"These actions are on top of similar steps that FIFA has taken over the past year to exclude any members who violate our own Code of Ethics. We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing."

An arrest warrant was issued in Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday for former FIFA vice president Jack Warner at the request of U.S. authorities, the attorney general of the twin island Caribbean nation said.

The two countries have an extradition treaty. The statement said it would "ensure that Mr. Warner's rights are respected."

Russia, meanwhile, accused the United States of acting illegally following the FBI-led investigation in Zurich.

"Without going into the details of the accusations ... this is clearly another case of illegal ex-territorial use of U.S. law," said a statement on the website of the Russian foreign ministry.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.


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