There has been a lot in the news recently about the Department of Justice’s investigation into FIFA. A number of members and former members of soccer’s world governing body have been arrested and indicted with inevitably more to come. It took the good ol’ US of A to tackle the corruption and graft that had been going on within the organization for years. Working with Swiss authorities the DOJ paid a visit to FIFA members’ hotel in Zurich in the early hours of the morning and arrested 14 of them. Taking on FIFA is no joke as they are arguably the single most powerful sports body in the world. With membership of 209 countries (some members are arguably actual countries), monetary ties with each, and a cash reserve of $1.5 billion, FIFA has power. Big time power. The so called “president” of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, has wielded this power to great effect throughout his 17 year tenure. With an annual revenue larger than the GDP of most nations, it’s fair to say that Blatter and FIFA had certain global political influence on par with that of members of the G8. This multinational organization answers to no sovereign nation, has a great amount of influence in developing countries, and again let’s not forget, makes a metric ton of money that is not taxed. What has happened at FIFA is a classic example of rampant power and money run wild. The United States is out to curb this corruption and bring those responsible to justice…
Now I applauded this move by American and Swiss authorities. I would like nothing better than to see Blatter and his cronies hang out to dry for how they have conducted themselves as curators of the game I love. One by one those in custody will roll on those above them and eventually they’ll reach the top. I have faith that this will happen. There will be some jail time in the equation I imagine, and a hefty amount of fines and forfeitures ordered no doubt. But I do wonder, why? And why now? I mean thousands of Nepalese workers have already perished building stadiums for the feather in the corrupted cap disaster that is the Qatar World Cup bid.
Another item trending in the news lately is the existence of the “deep web” or “darkweb,” Silk Road, and the Tor anonymity network as it relates to the recent sentencing of Ross Ulbricht. The Silk Road was an online black market that allowed sellers and buyers to operate anonymously and was best known for being a place to buy and sell illegal drugs. Ulbricht’s Silk Road generated an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue and $79.8 million in commissions over 1,229,465 transactions. He identified a market, had an idea of how to tap into it, engineered a business model, implemented it and became a great success. He had ultimate control of Silk Road, being able to dictate which sellers could have an account and how much each account would cost them. It’s a capitalist’s wet dream really. We’re talking absolute power at the top of the organization and big time money rolling in. Again, not answering to any government, and not paying taxes as a result of the underground nature of the business. The DOJ ultimately paid him a visit and he was rewarded for his entrepreneurial efforts with 5 federal sentences, two of which included life in prison without the possibility of parole. Oh, also a forfeiture of $183 million. Another man brought to justice….
So what do these two cases have in common? What could a sports governing body possibly have to do with an online black market? Well, they share some traits. Both are insanely profitable, both hold a lot of power in their areas of influence, both are earning un-taxed revenue, both operate independently of any national government, and both were/are being taken down by the “Justice” system.
But who is this justice for?
The FIFA case is a pretty easy sell. There were bribes paid, members were lining their pockets with money that should have been going to develop coaching, stadiums, and equipment. Tournaments and World Cups were being awarded “unfairly.” No one likes being treated unfairly right? Oh, and of course the piss poor human rights record of 2022 World Cup host Qatar and the thousands of lives lost by virtual slave laborers in preparation for the tournament. We gotta save lives! Do the right thing! It’s about the health and well being of human beings. We have to take out an organization that would allow such a thing to go on. Back door deals, “racketeering,” bribe taking, and dying workers. Who doesn’t want to see these evil masterminds pay for what they’ve done?
Then we have Ross Ulbricht who built an empire through use of the Tor network. A network developed domestically by the way, in an effort to give our military and political dissidents in hostile regime countries a way to communicate securely. Yes, this case has something we can get the people to rally around too. Drugs! They were selling drugs on Silk Road! Oh woe is me, save the children! We must protect the health and well being of people the world over by preventing them from buying and taking drugs. Ulbricht who, when you get down to it, did nothing more than set up an anonymous online marketplace will serve back to back life sentences and had to hand over nearly $200 million in asset forfeiture. Job done, children are saved, truth and justice for all.
But not justice for all. “All” isn’t whom our Attorney General is concerned about. The DOJ isn’t interested in justice for “All.” They pursue a course of justice for their interests.
The United States of America will not tolerate independent, wealthy and powerful organizations’ existence. If we can’t tax it or bomb it consider it public enemy number one. Full stop. End of story.