The 'Relentless Attorney' Going Up against FIFA

By Apuzzo, Matt | International New York Times, May 30, 2015 | Go to article overview

The 'Relentless Attorney' Going Up against FIFA


Apuzzo, Matt, International New York Times


Less than a month into her job as attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch has captured the world's attention this past week when she vowed to rid FIFA, soccer's governing body, of corruption.

Thabiso Sithole, a sports reporter with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, had just finished his Wednesday evening segment on the American indictments that had rocked international soccer when his cousin called.

"Who is this Loretta Lynch person?" she asked.

Ms. Lynch, less than one month into her job as attorney general, captured the world's attention this past week when she vowed to rid FIFA, soccer's governing body, of corruption. Her news conference was watched around the world and made her the face of the American government's crackdown on some of the world's top soccer officials.

"She's been Googled more than a couple times here," Mr. Sithole said. "It was interesting, from this side, that there's a woman calling the shots for the U.S., and a black woman at that," Mr. Sithole said. "In particular going up against football, which is such a boys' club."

The Argentine newspaper La Nacion introduced her as "the relentless attorney." In Paris, Le Figaro called her "the woman who is rocking FIFA." In Germany, she was simply dubbed "FIFA-Jagerin" - - the FIFA hunter.

The FIFA indictment capped a month in which Ms. Lynch launched a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department and slapped Wall Street banks with billions of dollars in fines for manipulating currency markets. It was the most high-profile debut for a new attorney general since at least 2001, when Attorney General John Ashcroft accused Robert Hanssen, a veteran F.B.I. agent, of being a spy for Moscow in one of the most serious espionage cases in a generation.

In an interview this past week, Ms. Lynch demurred when asked about her role in leading the investigation. Law enforcement officials say she was steeped in the details and was involved in every major decision, but did not seize control from the prosecutors and agents who supervised it. Ms. Lynch said she did not stay awake to monitor the arrests of senior FIFA officials in Zurich, leaving it instead in the hands of prosecutors and F.B.I. agents. "I let my people do their thing," she said. "And it's an excellent staff."

Ms. Lynch is not known as a headline-grabbing prosecutor. In New York, colleagues said she had to be persuaded to hold news conferences to discuss cases. She has spent nearly all of her career as a prosecutor, and even though her confirmation was held up amid a fight over President Obama's immigration policy, nobody questioned her qualifications.

Two weeks ago, Silvia Pisani, the Washington correspondent for La Nacion, was discussing with her editor possible subjects for a story, and Ms. Lynch's name came up. "She's too boring," Ms. Pisani recalled saying. "Let's do Columba Bush," the wife of Jeb Bush, a likely Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Florida.

This past week, Ms. Pisani rushed to profile Ms. Lynch for Argentines eager to know more about her. "They don't like the American government," Ms. Pisani said. "But they like her."

Federal courts have allowed American prosecutors to bring cases against foreigners living abroad as long as there is some connection to the United States. Sometimes that connection is limited, such as the use of an Internet service provider. …

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