Yes, Putin, this IS America's business

Story highlights

  • Mel Robbins: Putin says U.S. meddling in FIFA affairs by bringing indictments; he's wrong
  • She says U.S. has clear "jurisdictional hook." Could Putin be worried probe might uncover any Russian "meddling" in 2018 Cup?

Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. Follow her @melrobbins. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of meddling in FIFA's affairs -- and he's right. We are. And we should be.

Americans might care less about professional soccer than the rest of the world, but when crimes and corruption occur on the scale that has been alleged by the U.S. Justice Department, unlike in Putin's administration, the American justice system steps up to do something about it.
Mel Robbins
Putin may be angry because this scandal might just affect Russia's ability to host the World Cup in 2018 and might uncover whether Putin or surrogates "meddled" with senior officials at FIFA -- or even its President Sepp Blatter -- to make the lucrative World Cup gig happen for his country.
    Putin also claims that it is "odd" that America launched the probe into crimes that do not involve its citizens and did not happen in the United States.
    On that, he is also dead wrong.
    It does involve the United States. FIFA's governing body for North, South and Central America is in Miami and responsible for securing the broadcast rights in the Western Hemisphere for the World Cup and other tournaments.
    The Justice Department alleges that sports broadcast executives from North, South and Central America paid more than $150 million in bribes to FIFA officials to secure the right to air the games on television. Not only does the United States have what we call a "jurisdictional hook" to bring charges in the United States, but if the Justice Department can prove that FIFA officials violated racketeering, corruption, wire tape and conspiracy laws, the U.S. government must step up, even as other countries look the other way.
    As FBI Director James Comey said at a news conference on Wednesday, "If you touch our shores with your corrupt enterprise ... you will be held accountable for that corruption."
    The Justice Department has been investigating FIFA for years. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the investigation uncovered bribery going back to 1991 "over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament," she said.
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    Switzerland is conducting a parallel investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 Russia World Cup and 2022 Qatar World Cup. The World Cup site selection, for instance, is a big deal not only because there's a lot of money involved in the tournament but also thanks to the hundreds of millions that will be awarded in government contracts to get the country ready to host the Cup.
    Remember the Winter Olympics in Sochi? The allegations of corruption were more riveting than the games. Putin's "boyhood friend and former judo partner" got multiple building contracts to help Russian prepare for the Winter Games. The total take: $7 billion -- yes billion. Think Putin and his pals want anyone "meddling" in the World Cup deal? I don't think so.
    So what's next? The Department of Justice will march forward on the broadcast-related bribery charges while Switzerland completes its investigation. The United States has an extradition treaty with the Swiss, which means the FIFA officials who have been arrested could be brought to the United States to stand trial for their alleged crimes.
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    What makes this case so confusing is that FIFA itself exists in a legal gray area. It's not a business, it's not a government institution and it's not a nonprofit. It's a private sports club that has operated for far too long and with far too much power and potential for illicit profits without any meaningful oversight.
    While it might not seem apparent at first blush, why the United States has a dog in this fight, it will become vividly clear as this story grows.
    "There is a danger that cynicism creeps into our lives and folks shrug and say, 'That's the way things are,' our FBI director said. "That may be the way things are, but it's not the way things have to be."
    Thankfully, unlike Russia, we live in a country where corruption isn't treated like business as usual.