World Series of Corruption?

The Department of Justice has, according to a September 28, 2018, Yahoo story, been conducting a federal grand jury investigation of Major League Baseball’s “international dealings.” It, sources told Yahoo, “has issued subpoenas to club officials and other personnel.”

The evidence that precipitated the investigation, Sports Illustrated recently reported, is about the recruitment of foreign players and the “possible corruption” is, SI reports, “centered on potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”  Underpinning these claims is a “dossier of documentation” SI obtained including photographs, emails, receipts, and other materials.

Portions of the SI story read like an Ian Fleming novel and describe an illicit Cuban player pipeline featuring “Caribbean smugglers” and “stash houses.”  Whether these or other suspicious activities turn out to be more fact or fiction is something that will have to be ferreted out over time.

That there would be the potential for investigation should come as no surprise.  As Forbes reported earlier this year, more than a quarter of major league players are foreign born with the Dominican Republic, Venzuela, and Cuba, leading the way – three nations that have complex historical and political relationships with the United States.

The Department of Justice takes seriously the enforcement of immigration laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  Moreover, the Department of Justice has ample experience investigating suspected global sports corruption (see 2015 FIFA Corruption case, 2002 Olympic scandal, and more reent reports of investigations regarding doping, cyber attacks, and other matters).

How far this investigation will lead, how many teams will be affected, how many witness will be called, etc., is unknown.  What is known is that a federal grand jury investigation is definitely not a game and certainly not an amateur sport.