More FIFA bribe claims tabled in US court

Jack Warner is alleged to have received bribe money for his Russia vote from 10 separate shell companies spread across countries including Anguilla, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.
Jack Warner is alleged to have received bribe money for his Russia vote from 10 separate shell companies spread across countries including Anguilla, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

Prosecutors have tabled fresh allegations of bribes being paid to FIFA executive committee members to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.

An indictment unsealed on Monday in a US District Court in Brooklyn alleges Nicolas Leoz, the then president of South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL, and former Brazil federation president Ricardo Teixeira accepted bribes to vote for the Gulf state at FIFA’s executive committee meeting in 2010.

The indictment also alleges Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, who was president of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, received 5 million US dollars in bribes to vote for Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup.

Guatemala federation president Rafael Salguero was also promised a 1 million dollar bribe to vote for Russia, according to the indictment, an updated third draft of charges in the matter, which alleges 53 counts of illegal behaviour in total.

The document also alleges a range of bribery and corruption offences in connection to broadcasting rights in North and South America for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, including events that led to the Fox network gaining the rights to show those competitions in the US.

The case has been brought in the US after law enforcement bodies there, headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), undertook to look into allegations of bribery in world football, particularly relating to the 2018 and 2022 world cups.

Leoz died last August, having avoided extradition to the US. Warner and Teixeira have also avoided extradition.

Salguero pleaded guilty in 2018 to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and to single counts of racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Warner is alleged to have received bribe money for his Russia vote from 10 separate shell companies spread across countries including Anguilla, Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

“The profiteering and bribery in international soccer have been deep-seated and commonly known practices for decades,” William F Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement issued by the office of the US Attorney in the Eastern District of New York.

“Over a period of many years, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the governance and business of international soccer with bribes and kickbacks, and engaged in criminal fraudulent schemes that caused significant harm to the sport of soccer.

“Their schemes included the use of shell companies, sham consulting contracts and other concealment methods to disguise the bribes and kickback payments and make them appear legitimate.”

Qatar won the right to host the 2022 tournament over the US by a vote of 14-8.

The indictment includes charges that former 21st Century Fox executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez made payments to CONMEBOL officials to obtain US broadcast rights bidding information from a co-conspirator who was not identified in the indictment.

ESPN had US television rights to the World Cup from 1994-2014, but in 2011 Fox gained the rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

After the 2022 tournament in Qatar was rescheduled from summer to late autumn, a time when it is likely to receive less attention than normal in the US due to clashing with the NFL, FIFA awarded Fox the rights for the 2026 World Cup without competitive bidding.

Also charged in the indictment are former Imagina Media Audiovisual CEO Gerard Romy and the Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play Group SA.

The indictment includes charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The charges against Romy and Full Play also allege racketeering conspiracy.

The indictment, detailed in the statement from the US Attorney’s office, says Lopez and Martinez joined Full Play and other co-conspirators in a scheme involving the annual payment of millions of dollars in bribes to officials of CONMEBOL in exchange for broadcasting rights to South America’s major club tournament, the Copa Libertadores.

“Lopez and Martinez also relied on loyalty secured through the payment of bribes to certain CONMEBOL officials to advance the business interests of Fox, including to obtain confidential bidding information for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in the United States, rights that Fox successfully obtained,” the statement said.

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