On June 4, Voice of America television included me on a half-hour live French-speaking panel interview about the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) scandal (see the lengthy official criminal charges). The program was broadcast to countries including French-speaking West African nations.
I have been speaking French since 1975, having studied the language for four years and spending substantial time speaking French over the years, which helped me more quickly learn and soak up Spanish. This was my first interview in French. My segment starts after minute 4:00 and I get the last word. The full interview is here on YouTube and here on the Voice of America Washington Forum French-language webpage.
The interviewer, Jacques Aristide, from Mauritius, asked me mainly basic questions about what is ahead for the FIFA defendants, and I emphasized that, as with all criminal defendants in the United States, they all are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course, some of them, or more, are always rushing to cut guilty plea deals, as the first federal co-defendants to strike deals that have them helping to convict others, often reduce their prison exposure the most.
The interviewer asked me why the case is being prosecuted in the United States. I pointed out that the accusations include alleged activities in the United States. Defendant Charles Blazer, for instance, is a United States citizen whose alleged crimes happened right in the United States, and allegations include that money laundering or other financial improprieties were conducted using American banks. I said that this multi-defendant prosecution is so expensive that it becomes more expensive to prosecute in more than one country.
I was not asked whether I think it a good idea to be extraditing all these non-United States citizens to be prosecuted here. How much is the world really damaged by the alleged FIFA scandal? We are not talking about allegations of violent crime, nor any efforts to dismantle or harm the United States government, financial markets, Internet security, nor American society. Does the United States government want other governments, many with more oppressive criminal justice systems, to haul Americans to their criminal courts sometimes under the most specious of charges? By continuously getting foreign nationals hauled into American criminal courts, the American government will sound more disingenuous to hem and haw against the same happening abroad to its own citizens.
This was my second Voice of America interview, the previous one resulting in a print blurb on the Tsarnaev Boston bombing case. I have never figured out how independent Voice of America’s content is from United States government and policy. I did not sense any non-independence as to my two interviews with the Voice of America. This was a very enjoyable experience both on and off camera spending time with interviewer Jacques Aristide, commentator Roger Muntu, and my fellow in-studio interviewee and soccer analyst Gervais Lagoke Gnaka, with Cameroonian sports journalist Herv© Kouamouo speaking from Paris. The only part I did not like is having not only to pass through a metal detector at the VOA headquarters, requiring me to remove my belt in the process. Not all government buildings were so heavily garrisoned before September 11, 2001.