By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom
The FIFA bribery scandal was brought back into the spotlight once again following the guilty plea of Guatemalan Judge, Hector Trujillo, before a Brooklyn Court in New York, in the US.
Trujillo was arrested in December 2015 aboard a Disney cruise ship and had been charged in relation to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, in exchange for assisting in providing media and marketing rights for Guatemala’s qualifying matches for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Trujillo is due to be sentenced on 20 September, 2017.
He is not the first Guatemalan individual to be charged or to plead guilty in the bribery scandal. In July 2016, Guatemala’s former football chief, Brayan Jimenez, pleaded guilty to charges relating to racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy. It seems that Trujillo’s guilty plea relates to the same bribes that Jimenez received.
Trujillo and Jimenez are two of more than 40 people charged by the US authorities in relation to payments of more than $200 million in bribes, in exchange for marketing and broadcasting rights.
To date, 19 individuals have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, including former FIFA Vice President, Jeffrey Webb, and Chuck Blazer, the former General Secretary of CONCACAF (The Governing body of football in the Caribbean and North/Central America). Blazer was initially arrested in New York and, as part of a plea bargain, agreed to assist the FBI in its investigations into corruption within FIFA. To date, nobody charged by the US authorities has stood trial on the charges.
Since the bribery scandal broke, FIFA has attempted to distance itself from the individuals charged, most of whom held senior positions either within FIFA or within FIFA’s national association members.
FIFA launched its own internal investigations into the bribery scandal, which did not exactly go according to plan. In December 2014, Michael Garcia, the lead investigator into the corruption scandal, resigned from his position, following a decision to publish a 42-page summary of his 430-page report that Garcia said contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of facts and conclusions”.
Presently, there are a number of officials that have been charged, including Jack Warner, the former FIFA Vice President, who is fighting extradition to the United States. Whilst the extradition process is still ongoing and until the bribery charges are concluded, it is unlikely that FIFA is going to be able to move on from the scandal and restore its credibility.
Jonathan Copping can be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@boltburdon.co.uk’