Costas Takkas, a former business partner and attaché for Cayman’s Jeffrey Webb, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy in U.S. federal court Wednesday as part of the ongoing FIFA racketeering and bribery investigation.
Takkas, a U.K. national, was a Cayman Islands resident for some 20 years between the 1980s and early 2000s and also served as former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association. He agreed to change his earlier plea of not guilty to one count in the indictment issued against him.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) accepted the guilty plea to money laundering conspiracy in relation to a scheme in which federal prosectors said Takkas helped funnel US$2 million in bribes to Webb.
The bribes were allegedly paid by two sports marketing companies in exchange for the award of lucrative commercial rights to FIFA tournaments, in this case, World Cup qualifier matches to be held in the Caribbean region ahead of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.
According to a press statement released Wednesday by U.S. prosecutors: “Webb, Takkas and Traffic USA, one of the sports marketing companies, arranged for Traffic to secretly funnel half of Web’s US$3 million bribe through front companies and accounts controlled by Takkas.”
A portion of the bribe prosecutors said was paid by the second company, Media World, was also sent through accounts controlled by Takkas. That portion of the second company’s payment was approximately US$500,000 prosecutors said.
Takkas was one of seven men arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 27, 2015 as part of a U.S. federal criminal probe into FIFA activities. Dozens of former high-ranking members of world football’s governing body have been accused of accepting millions in bribes in exchange for awarding lucrative commercial contracts for various football tournaments to certain sports marketing companies in North and South America.
Webb, who was a FIFA vice president at the time, pleaded guilty to seven counts in the U.S. indictment that include allegations of racketeering, money laundering conspiracy and wire transfer conspiracy. He faces sentencing in July.
Takkas’s guilty plea Wednesday was only to one of the charges against him. He was also accused of multiple counts of wire transfer conspiracy and a racketeering charge. He faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment when he is sentenced in September.
The FIFA indictment, issued in 2015, revealed details of the US$3 million bribe requested by Webb via intermediaries – one of whom was Takkas – in 2012. That alleged bribe was partly paid by Traffic USA, the indictment alleges.
However, Traffic USA paid only half of the bribe money, the indictment states. The other company involved, Media World, also joined in the scheme to obtain the marketing rights to certain 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifying matches – rights that were previously held by Caribbean Football Union member associations.
It is alleged that Roger Huguet – the CEO of Media World – and Takkas met in South Florida to arrange the payment for Webb. Eventually, some cash was transmitted to Takkas, U.S. authorities said.
For instance, in December 2014, it is alleged that US$170,000 was wired from Panama to a Deutsche Bank Trust Company account in New York City and then forwarded to an account held by Takkas in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The payments stopped in early 2015, the indictment states, when Huguet was informed about the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation and advised that Media World “should not make additional payments toward the US$1.5 million bribe it owed to Jeffrey Webb.”
The full amount of Media World’s bribe payment was never made, prosecutors have said.