The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
News that FIFA officials have been arrested in Switzerland for operating a "racketeering conspiracy" (under US law) and for violating US anti-bribery law brings together in one delightful package two of my very favorite subjects: soccer and international jurisdiction!
As the VC's long-time resident soccer fan, I would be delighted to see FIFA destroyed and reconstituted as something a little less like the odious mass of corruption that it has become over the years—what real soccer fan would feel differently? It hasn't managed to destroy the beautiful game, but it has done everything but, and bringing it sharply to heel (and maybe cancelling its award of the next two World Cups to the equally odious rulers of Russia and Qatar?) is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
But still, one has to wonder: is the activity of its officials, egregious as it is, such that it subjects their conduct to US criminal law, and the jurisdiction of the US courts? As the Times story notes:
United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.
But ask yourself: if you think that the "use of an American bank" is a sufficient basis for the exercise of US jurisdiction over foreign nationals residing and conducting business abroad, then presumably you're OK with being hauled into court in Singapore because you have used, say, a Singaporean bank, or into a Mexican court because your money found its way to a Mexican mortgage broker, or into a Danish court because you have at times used a Danish Internet Service Provider. Yes? When you look at it that way it becomes a little more difficult to applaud wholeheartedly—shouldn't we have been able to count on the Swiss, within whose jurisdiction FIFA undoubtedly lies, to do something?