You’ve heard about the Russia investigation. Meddling, the Magnitsky Act, Mueller.
But Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier, looked into Russian interference long before the 2016 presidential election. In 2010, he started looking into Russia’s efforts to host the 2018 World Cup.
Putin was “determined, sources said, to win the bid at any cost”. But getting the tournament seemed like a weak bet: There wasn’t a strong soccer tradition in Russia and the country lacked the infrastructure to accommodate the tournament. Moreover, Britain seemed like the obvious choice. But FIFA, soccer’s governing body, chose Russia.
Steele passed along what he had heard about Putin’s desires to an FBI official. After that, the FBI and IRS worked for years to expose generations of corruption at FIFA. In 2015, they got results. And it was successful — the formerly “untouchable” FIFA president Sepp Blatter stepped down.
The world’s most popular game was shaken to its core: Multiple generations of FIFA administrators were brought down, accused of collectively taking hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes.
But any mention of Russia is conspicuously absent in the court filings around this case. What happened? What can the investigation into FIFA tell us about the current Russia investigation?
Ken Bensinger, an investigative reporter from BuzzFeed News, has some answers. He’s the author of the forthcoming book “Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal.” (Read Bensinger’s op-ed in the New York Times about this topic here.)
Ken Bensinger, Investigative reporter, Buzzfeed; author, “Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal”; @kenbensinger
Jim O’Grady, Reporter, WNYC; @jimog
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