Beautiful game, tainted men: Corruption charges framed against top Fifa officials
The United States department of justice on Wednesday charged nine Fifa officials and five corporate marketing executives with corruption, racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.
Seven of them were arrested by Swiss authorities at a Zurich hotel, where Fifa, the international body administering football, is headquartered shortly before the indictments were announced.
The football officials are alleged to have received well over $150 million since 1991 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for favours for sports marketing executives.
Watch: FIFA officials arrested on corruption charges amidst World Cup inquiry
“Two generations of footbal lofficials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks,” said the department of justice in a statement announcing the charges.
Most of the corruption took place in “the commercialisation of the media and marketing rights” — TV/radio broadcast rights and merchandizing, in other words — associated with various tournaments and matches administrated by Fifa, including world cup qualifiers.
The United States has also alleged that some of these payments were made to influence the selection of the host country for the 2010 world cup, South Africa, but it gave out no details.
The accused football officials include Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb, who is in charge of the organisation’s north American operations, including the US.
Other Fifa officials included those running the sport in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela and those engaged with Olympics football tournaments.
The four indicted executives were heads of two Argentina-based sports marketing companies and one from the US, and one from a broadcasting company who served as an intermediary.
Four people investigated have already pleaded guilty and they include sons of the Trinidad official, an American official and an executive from a Brazilian company.
The defendants are alleged to have made money by abusing their powers regarding the grant of marketing and media rights for Fifa’s tournaments worldwide.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Lynch, announcing the indictments.
The indictments were unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York early Wednesday morning, as details of the allegations and arrests trickled in form Zurich.
Swiss authorities have said the arrests were made at the request of the United States, whose investigators continue to raid and search related premises and facilities.
Headquarters of CONCACAF, the body that oversees footballin 41 nations including the United States, were being searched in Florida, the justice department said in a statement.
Jeffrey Webb: Current Fifa vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.
Eduardo Li: Current Fifa executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican footballfederation (FEDEFUT) president.
Julio Rocha: Current Fifa development officer. Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan footballfederation (FENIFUT) president.
Jack Warner: Former Fifa vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.
Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan footballfederation (FVF) president.
José Maria Marin: Current member of the Fifa organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments. Former CBF president.
Nicolás Leoz: Former Fifa executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.
Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president. Former CIFA general secretary.
Eugenio Figueredo: Current Fifa vice president and executive committee member. Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan footballfederation (AUF) president.
INDICTED MARKETING EXECUTIVES
Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc. (Traffic USA).
Hugo and Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.
Daryll Warner, son of defendant Jack Warner and a former Fifa development officer, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with wire fraud and the structuring of financial transactions in 2013.
Defendant Daryan Warner pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions also in 2013. He also forfeited over $1.1 million around the time of his plea and has agreed to pay a second forfeiture money judgment at the time of sentencing.
Charles Blazer, the former CONCACAF general secretary and a former Fifa executive committee member, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a 10-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion and failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts in 2013. He forfeited over $1.9 million at the time of his plea and has agreed to pay a second amount to be determined at the time of sentencing.
On Dec. 12, 2014, the defendant José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, the Brazilian sports marketing firm, pleaded guilty to a four-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He also agreed to forfeit over $151 million, $25 million of which was paid at the time of his plea.
Traffic Sports USA Inc. and Traffic Sports International Inc. pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy earlier this month.