Review: ‘Red Card’ Tells a Tale With Parallels to the Russia Investigation

Review: ‘Red Card’ Tells a Tale With Parallels to the Russia Investigation

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A fundamental problem with many white-collar-crime dramas is the often technical and unintuitive nature of the underlying misconduct. Collusion and insider trading, for example, can be illegal under surprisingly narrow circumstances. Luckily for both Mr. Bensinger and the reader, the FIFA scandal involved old-fashioned and highly intuitive vote buying, bribery, payoffs and kickbacks on a breathtaking scale. Such corruption makes for a particularly gripping narrative.

Prosecutors, however, did grapple with highly complex technical questions. Here, however, they were related more often to jurisdictional issues than to substantive law. Mr. Blazer’s decision, for example, to deposit one of his payoffs directly at his Merrill Lynch brokerage next door to Trump Tower rather than mail it as usual to his bank in the Caymans proved particularly fateful.

The one major issue of substantive law raised by the case was the decision to apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, which was originally designed for prosecuting organized crime. A major advantage of charging RICO in addition to garden-variety crimes is that it gives prosecutors wide authority to seek forfeiture of assets. In the end, these successful investigations and prosecutions have already yielded hundreds of millions in proceeds to the government.

The former F.B.I. director James Comey, who makes a cameo appearance in “Red Card,” recently observed in his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” that our president is disposed toward organizational structures that are reminiscent of La Cosa Nostra. The Democratic National Committee has filed a civil RICO case against the Trump campaign. And who knows what will turn up in the materials obtained in the recent raid on the office of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, a former senior Trump Organization executive?

Before targeting FIFA and its regional confederation as an enterprise “engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering, in pursuit of personal and commercial gain,” federal prosecutors had an uneven track record in applying RICO outside of mob settings and were often reluctant to do so. Based on the success of the soccer investigations so far, and with the FIFA and special counsel inquiries continuing, we may be poised for a significant renaissance in RICO-inspired prosecutions.

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