Current Events that make sense #24



Last week, the Swiss police arrested a number of FIFA officials on behalf of the US government. The FBI alleges there has been deep-seated and brazen corruption within the football governing body.



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The US arrested 14 people over an investigation into money laundering and fraud that is said to date back to the 1990s. The US Attorney General said that since 1991, FIFA officials have been taking millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for things such as marketing rights. The Swiss also have their own investigation into the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar) World Cup bids, where it is alleged that these countries bribed FIFA to win the bid for host nation. On top of this it has been reported that the death toll of migrant workers in Qatar - who have been building infrastructure for the world cup - has escalated as a result of terrible working conditions.



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If things continue as is, it is estimated 4000 workers will die by the time that the World Cup begins in 2022. Despite this, FIFA has said they will not do a revote of the World Cup bids in either Russia or Qatar.


FIFA, though never having the best reputation, has always managed to avoid any actual charges. FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, has not been arrested in relation to the charges, and in response to the allegations, he says he cannot monitor everyone all of the time. On top of all of this drama, FIFA just had their election for their new President at the end of last week, with Blatter being re-elected. It is the fifth, four-year term for the 79 year old.


Taxpayers being fleeced


People are up in arms at the moment over revelations that the National government bribed a Saudi Arabian businessman so as to stop him from resisting the trade deal with the country.


In 2007, New Zealand banned live sheep exports after 4000 sheep died on a voyage from Australia to Saudi Arabia. (Nb: New Zealand still exports cattle to many parts of the world, but only for breeding and under strictly supervised conditions.) This angered Saudi Arabian multi-millionaire business-man Hamood Al Khalaf, who owns farms in New Zealand through which he exported sheep back to Saudi Arabia. He said he would lose millions of dollars as a result of the ban. For clarification, the reason they want to receive livestock is that they prefer to kill the animals in an halal certified way.



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It’s been revealed that Al Khalaf threatened to sue New Zealand for approximately $30million. Because Al Khalaf is such a prominent businessman in Saudi Arabia, the dispute had a negative impact on discussions of a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Gulf Cooperation Council, which Saudi Arabia is a part of. In the hopes of getting things back on track, the government decided to send 900 breeding sheep to Saudi Arabia (while also altering rules around safety guidelines at the businessman’s request) and then spent more than $11.5million to establish a demonstration farm in Saudi Arabia for Al Khalaf. (Supposedly $4mil was given to Al Khalaf as a bribe, $6mil to set up the farm, and $1.5mil to send the sheep over). This expenditure has been criticised by the opposition as a way to buy support for the FTA with Saudi Arabia. Labour’s trade spokesperson, David Parker, said “It’s not appropriate to buy influence in order to get a free trade agreement with the Gulf states.” Just because this influential businessman doesn’t like our law change, why should we bribe him to get an FTA? New Zealand has an international reputation of being an ethical country that does not give in to bribery, but this kind of behaviour is undermining that stance.


As an aside, New Zealand currently has halal processing premises - with Saudi Arabia being one of the main customers. As to why Al Khalaf chooses not to purchase this meat, the reason is unknown.



The New Zealand ewes at the Saudi Arabia farm. [image cred]


Foreign Minister, Murray McCully’s opinion is that the farm is beneficial to New Zealand as it has 30 New Zealand businesses associated with it.


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