By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, UK
US prosecutors investigating corruption involving FIFA executives and the awards of the FIFA World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, have charged a number of former FIFA executives, as well as three media executives and a sports marketing company, with a number of crimes, including wire fraud and money laundering, in connection with bribes to secure television and marketing rights for international soccer tournaments.
The proceedings, which were filed on 18 March 2020 in the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, contain numerous allegations, including:
- Jack Warner, the former FIFA executive committee member, FIFA vice president, president of CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union (“CFU”), as well as a “special advisor” to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation, a national member association of FIFA, CONCACAF and the CFU received wired payments to a Citibank account in Miami, controlled by Jack Warner in exchange for the award of contracts to the rights to the CFU World Cup qualifying matches;
- CONEMBOL officials, including Ricardo Teixeira, a former FIFA executive committee member and president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, and Jose Luis Meiszner, the former general secretary of CONEMBOL and general secretary of the Argentina Football Association, received annual bribe and kickback payments in return for awarding the broadcast rights to the Copa Libertadores and other football matches to T & T Sports Marketing Ltd;
- CONEMBOL officials, including Ricardo Teixeira, Jose Luis Meiszner and Eugenio Figueredo, the former president of the Uruguayan Football Association and vice president of CONEMBOL, agreed to receive bribes in connection with the award of the marketing rights to the 2013 Copa America, as well as the next four Copa America tournaments;
- High-ranking FIFA and the South African government indicated to Jack Warner that they were prepared to arrange for the government of South Africa to pay $10 million to the CFU purportedly to “support the African diaspora” but in fact to secure the votes of Warner and other CONCACAF representatives on the FIFA executive committee in favour of South Africa as host of the 2010 tournament. In 2008, FIFA transferred $10million to accounts in the name of CFU and CONCACAF but controlled by Jack Warner. On or about 9 January 2008, Warner diverted $200,000 from the funds, received from FIFA one week earlier, to his personal account. Further funds were transferred to Warner’s personal accounts via intermediaries; and
- Jack Warner received a bribe of approximately $5million via more than two dozen separate payments, to an account he controlled at the Republic Bank in Trinidad and Tobago in the name of the CFU. The payments were sent from 10 different shell companies, all of which were registered and maintained bank accounts in offshore jurisdictions, including Cyprus, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. The US authorities allege the payment was received in return for Jack Warner voting for Russia to host the 2018 World Cup. Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz, the former president of CONEMBOL, received bribes in exchange for voting for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
The new indictment lodged by US prosecutors runs to 70 pages and it is the first time such detail of the corruption involving FIFA executives has been published.
The US prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of any “property, real or personal, that constitutes or is derived from proceeds obtained directly or indirectly from the commission of such offense, or that is used to facilitate or intended to be used to facilitate the commission of such offense.”
Whilst FIFA has tried to move on from this corruption scandal, the new indictment will put FIFA back into the spotlight and potentially put pressure on the world governing body of football to reopen an inquiry into how votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were won.
The integrity of the ‘beautiful game’ demands nothing less than such openness and transparency!
Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’