Loretta Lynch proved real nemesis of Sepp Blatter

Fifa may have met its match in US’s first female African-American attorney general

US attorney-feneral Loretta Lynch: accused two generations of Fifa  officials of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption, “ both abroad and here in the United States”. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

US attorney-feneral Loretta Lynch: accused two generations of Fifa officials of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption, “ both abroad and here in the United States”. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

 

It may have been a German judge who finally banished Sepp Blatter from the world of football, but the longtime Fifa president’s real nemesis was a diminutive US lawyer whose legendary prowess at bringing down mobsters was dramatised in the movie Goodfellas.

Loretta Lynch became the first female African-American to serve as attorney general in late April, when Barack Obama appointed her to the role.

Within a month, Blatter who became her first big international scalp when the justice department ordered dawn raids on a hotel in Switzerland and Lynch appeared before cameras to accuse two generations of soccer officials of “corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States”.

Investigations into Fifa had been going on for far longer, but it was a case Lynch knew well, as it began under her in a previous job as US attorney for New York’s eastern district.

Scourge

The case began with the bizarre arrest of suburban soccer dad Chuck Blazer as he trundled down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on a mobility scooter.

Blazer had risen to the top of what was becoming one of the most popular US sports, and was living the high life in nearby Trump town, where he kept two apartments: one for him; and one reputedly for his cats.

But this larger-than-life character was only a small cog in Fifa’s global money-making machine and the FBI successfully persuaded him to wear a wire tap and rat on his fellow officials – in a classic law-enforcement sting usually directed at mobsters.

Brooklyn-based Lynch was once overshadowed by her better-known rival in Manhattan’s more glamorous southern district, which handles Wall Street.

But whereas the great banking crash brought virtually no successful prosecutions, her eastern district of New York reeled in mobsters and wayward cops with equal vigour.

She was first best-known for her prosecution of the white police officers who viciously beat and sodomised a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, in 1997, in a case that became synonymous with – and emblematic of – police brutality in America.

But she also charged mobster Vincent Asaro for the robbery of $6 million in cash and jewellery from a vault at JFK airport, a plot immortalised in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

In 2011 she presided over the largest mafia bust in New York history, bringing charges against 127 members and associates of seven organised crime families. She scored convictions in multiple international terrorism cases, including a 2012 case in which an al-Qaeda operative was said to be days away from a suicide bombing attack on the city subway system.

Corruption and fraud

Lynch built an especially strong record on prosecuting sex trafficking, delivering more than 55 indictments in human trafficking cases and rescuing more than 110 victims, including at least 20 minors.

Barely five feet tall, the Harvard-educated lawyer certainly packs a punch at the department, and most recently announced a civil rights investigation into a Chicago police force overseen by one of Obama’s closest confidants.

Fifa may have long seen itself outside the reach of the law, but the wave of prosecutions that led to Blatter’s downfall shows it may have met its match. Guardian Service

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