Eight other FIFA officials, five businessmen face charges
A 47-count U.S. federal court indictment revealed Wednesday morning has alleged that FIFA Vice President and Cayman Islands resident Jeffrey Webb took part, along with at least eight other high-ranking FIFA officials, in a decades-long corruption and racketeering scheme.
The ultimate goal of the corrupt practices, according to federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York State, was to ensure certain sports marketing and promotions companies received exclusive rights connected to the commercialization of international football tournaments. In exchange, bribes and kickbacks were paid to FIFA officials, the indictment alleges.
Seven FIFA officials, including Webb, were arrested in Zurich, Switzerland just before the organization’s annual meeting, federal prosecutors confirmed.
FIFA, or the Federation Internationale de Football Association, is world football’s governing body.
According to a press release issued Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice: “Two generations of soccer officials 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.
“All told, the soccer officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive well over US$150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.”
Most of the schemes alleged relate to bribes paid to FIFA officials from the marketing executives in connection with the commercialization of media and marketing rights associated with various tournaments including the FIFA World Cup, the Gold Cup, the Copa America and other tournaments held in North and Latina America.
Other bribery schemes related to the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.
An indictment in U.S. federal court is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In addition to the arrests in Switzerland, the Miami, Florida headquarters of CONCACAF, FIFA’s North and Central American and Caribbean regional operation, were being searched Wednesday morning.
The indictments were made against three distinct categories of defendants: FIFA officials, sports media and marketing executives and businessmen and bankers who are alleged to have laundered money from the bribes.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep rooted, both abroad and…in the United States,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “It has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable.”
Current FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter was not named among the indicted defendants on Wednesday. However, federal prosecutors indicated the case was ongoing and that other arrests and charges could be forthcoming.
Those named in unsealed indictments Wednesday were:
*Jeffrey Webb: Current FIFA Vice President, CONCACAF [North and Central American and Caribbean region for FIFA] president, and Cayman Islands football association president.
*Costas Takkas: Webb’s attaché and former Cayman Islands football association general secretary.
*Eduardo Li: Costa Rican football federation president and FIFA executive committee member-elect.
*Julio Rocha: FIFA development officer and Nicaraguan football federation president
*Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and ex-CONCACAF president.
*Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member. Uruguayan football federation president.
*Rafael Esquivel: Venezuelan football federal president
*Jose Maria Marin: Current member of FIFA’s Olympic football tournament organizing committee.
*Nicolas Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL [FIFA’s South American region] president
*Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Argentina-based Torneos y Competencias, a sports marketing business
*Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc.
*Hugo and Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principals of Argentina-based Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business
*Jose Margulies: Controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd. This defendant is alleged to have served as an intermediary in facilitating payments between FIFA officials and marketing executives.
Four other individuals, unbeknownst to the general public, had already pleaded guilty in connection with the ongoing investigation, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Their cases were kept under seal until the arrests in Zurich and subsequent indictments.
Those individuals include:
*Daryll Warner: The son of defendant Jack Warner, a former FIFA development officer who pleaded guilty in July 2013 to wire fraud.
*Daryan Warner: Pleaded guilty in October 2013 to three criminal counts including wire fraud and money laundering.
*Charles Blazer: The former CONCACAF general secretary pleaded guilty in November 2013 to 10-count indictment alleging racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and income tax evasion.
*Jose Hawilla: The owner and founder of Traffic Group, a Brazilian sports marketing multinational, pleaded guilty in December 2014 to a four-count indictment alleging racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. The company Traffic Sports USA and Traffic Sports International also pleaded to wire fraud conspiracy earlier this month.
FIFA issued the following statement Wednesday regarding the arrests and indictments: “FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football. We understand that today’s actions by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice on behalf of the U.S. authorities and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (initiated by FIFA through the submission of the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process) relate to different matters.
“Firstly, the arrest of six individuals this morning in Zurich concerns investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of the State of New York. The Swiss authorities, acting on behalf of their U.S. counterparts, arrested the individuals for activities carried out in relation with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business.
“The second instance follows FIFA’s initiative of presenting the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General in November 2014. The authorities are taking the opportunity of the FIFA Congress to interview those FIFA Executive Committee members who are not Swiss residents who voted back in 2010 and are still in office.
“Today, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General announced that it has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown in relation to the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process. FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard. As noted by the Swiss authorities, this collection of evidence is being carried out on a cooperative basis.
“We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken.”