US Justice Department and FBI comments on the FIFA Investigation
That FIFA has been a hotbed of corruption, shady backroom dealings and outright crime for years, has been known to anyone with even a passing interest in football. Which is why we were surprised to learn this morning that none other than the US Attorney General, seemingly content with all the wristslaps handed out to criminal US foreign banks (and subsequent SEC waivers) gave FIFA the red card in a charge detailing "rampant" corruption in international soccer hours after 14 officials were arrested on accusations of a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through FIFA, whose office was searched in a series of dawn raids in Zurich.
Nine FIFA Officials and Five Corporate Executives Indicted for Racketeering Conspiracy and Corruption http://t.co/7SvYgNmlaN— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) May 27, 2015
The US charge was announced alongside of a Swiss criminal probe related to the controversial 2010 award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, hours after seven soccer officials were arrested and 14 indicted in Zurich, concurrent with a raid on the soccer body’s hilltop office in Zurich. The case involves bribes "totaling more than US$ 100 million" linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that two current FIFA vice presidents were among those arrested, Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay. The others are Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil. All seven are connected with the regional confederations of North and South America and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of racketeering.
The arrests sanctioned by the US DOJ as part of a separate US corruption probe took place at the lakeside Baur au Lac Hotel in downtown Zurich, long favored as a place for senior FIFA officials to stay. It was the stage for intense lobbying for votes ahead of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting decisions in December 2010, and is where this Friday FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s re-election was due to take place. Blatter was not among those originally charged by the US DOJ.
A police vehicle is parked outside of the five-star hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday morning, May 27, 2015. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice said six soccer officials have been arrested and detained pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities ahead of the FIFA congress in Zurich. In a statement Wednesday the FOJ said U.S. authorities suspect the officials of having received paid bribes totaling millions of dollars. (Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP)
People stand outside the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday, May 27, 2015 where six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid.
"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in the statement. "It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks."
As reported by Bloomberg "The collection of relevant bank documents had already been ordered beforehand at various financial institutes in Switzerland,” the Swiss Attorney General’s office said in a statement on its website. “The files seized today and the collected bank documents will serve criminal proceedings both in Switzerland and abroad.”
According to AP, FIFA said Friday's presidential election would go ahead as planned with Sepp Blatter going for a fifth term. FIFA also ruled out a revote of the World Cups won by Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
The Swiss prosecutors' office said in a statement they seized "electronic data and documents" at FIFA's headquarters on Wednesday as part of their probe. And Swiss police said they will question 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.
Bloomberg also reports that the choice of Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita, and Russia was made following a campaign that was overshadowed by claims of vote rigging. An investigation carried out on FIFA’s behalf by former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia ruled last year that though there were examples of wrongdoing, nothing was found that would require a re-vote. Garcia rejected the ruling and quit.
As many as half the FIFA membership that decided where the World Cup should be played have faced accusations of breaching regulations. Qatar and Russia have denied their bid teams acted improperly. “It is suspected that irregularities occurred in the allocation of the FIFA World Cups of 2018 and 2022,” the Swiss authorites said in the statement. “The corresponding unjust enrichment is suspected to have taken place at least partly in Switzerland.”
Among those charged by the Justice Department include Jeffrey Webb, the head of the regional soccer body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Jack Warner, his predecessor. Mr. Webb is also a FIFA vice president.
According to the WSJ, the 47-count indictment accuses two generations of soccer officials of working with sports marketing executives to shut out competitors and keep lucrative contracts for themselves.
Prosecutors said U.S. and South American sports marketing executives paid more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to FIFA officials to obtain media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.
Authorities said they obtained 6 guilty pleas, including from Charles Blazer, the former general secretary of regional body Concacaf, and Mr. Warner’s son Daryll.
According to the indictment, the alleged bribes affected the awarding of rights around World Cup qualifiers and other Concacaf tournaments, including in Brazil. Prosecutors said it also affected the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup, which took place in South Africa.
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Blatter had been scheduled to attend a meeting of the Confederation of African Football in a different downtown Zurich hotel, but he canceled his appearance.
Blatter's only opponent in Friday's presidential election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, said it was "a sad day for football," but declined to comment further.
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The full list of indicted officials and executives:
Nine of the defendants were FIFA officials by operation of the FIFA statutes, as well as officials of one or more other bodies:
- 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 soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.
- Julio Rocha: Current FIFA development officer. Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president.
- Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president. Former CIFA general secretary.
- Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.
- Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member. Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.
- Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (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.
Four of the defendants were sports 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.
And one of the defendants was in the broadcasting business but allegedly served as an intermediary to facilitate illicit payments between sports marketing executives and soccer officials:
- José Margulies: Controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd.
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More details in the DOJ indictment:
Nine FIFA Officials and Five Corporate Executives Indicted for Racketeering Conspiracy and Corruption
The Defendants Include Two Current FIFA Vice Presidents and the Current and Former Presidents of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF); Seven Defendants Arrested Overseas; Guilty Pleas for Four Individual Defendants and Two Corporate Defendants Also Unsealed
A 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer. The guilty pleas of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants were also unsealed today.
The defendants charged in the indictment include high-ranking officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the organization responsible for the regulation and promotion of soccer worldwide, as well as leading officials of other soccer governing bodies that operate under the FIFA umbrella. Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States – are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses. The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.
Full indicment here.
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And now we just sit back and wait to see how many of the defendants sent "donations" to the Clinton Foundation and how many speeches Hillary and/or Bill gave at the Baur au Lac in the past two decades.