FIFA Reveals World Cup Bribery, Sues Former Officials

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(WFI) As it tries to reclaim "tens of millions of dollars" pocketed illegally by corrupt former officials, FIFA has admitted for the first time that ExCo members sold their votes to help South Africa secure the 2010 World Cup.

Claiming it is a “victimized institution”, FIFA has submitted a 22-page claim to the US Attorney’s Office, demanding damages from the 41 former FIFA officials, other individuals and entities - including former CONCACAF leaders Chuck Blazer, Jack Warner, Jeffrey Webb - indicted in the ongoing investigation by the US Department of Justice into a decades-long bribery and corruption scandal. Assets worth more than $190m have been forfeited by the FIFA officials charged in the scandal that brought the federation to its knees.

The claim said that “damage done by the defendants’ greed cannot be overstated. Their actions have deeply tarnished the FIFA brand and impaired FIFA’s ability to use its resources for positive actions throughout the world”.

In a statement, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “The convicted defendants abused the positions of trust they held at FIFA and other international football organisations and caused serious and lasting damage to FIFA, its member associations and the football community.

“The monies they pocketed belonged to global football and were meant for the development and promotion of the game. FIFA as the world governing body of football wants that money back and we are determined to get it no matter how long it takes.”

FIFA estimates that tens of millions of dollars were diverted from football illegally through bribery, kickbacks and corrupt schemes carried out by the defendants. World football’s governing body is seeking to reclaim the money the defendants pocketed to enrich themselves, but also for the salaries, benefits and bonuses that were paid to them during their tenure at FIFA and other football organisations. FIFA said it was also seeking money from the defendants “for the damage their actions caused to FIFA’s brand and reputation, its intellectual property and its business relationships”.

“The defendants diverted this money not just from FIFA but from players, coaches and fans worldwide who benefit from the programmes that FIFA runs to develop and promote football,” added Infantino, who was elected last month to succeed Sepp Blatter.

“These dollars were meant to build football fields, not mansions and pools; to buy football kits, not jewellery and cars; and to fund youth player and coach development, not to underwrite lavish lifestyles for football and sports marketing executives. When FIFA recovers this money, it will be directed back to its original purpose: for the benefit and development of international football,” said Infantino.

In the claim, FIFA admits for the first time that ExCo officials who voted on the selection of World Cup hosts accepted bribes.

"It is now apparent that multiple members of FIFA’s Executive Committee abused their positions and sold their votes on multiple occasions," FIFA said in the claim to the US attorney.

The disgraced former CONCACAF bosses Blazer and Warner are said to have “engineered a $10 million payoff in exchange for Executive Committee votes [three] regarding where the 2010 FIFA World Cup would be hosted”. They facilitated the payment from the South African FA to help the country secure the 2010 World Cup. The claim also points to Warner’s “corrupt vote” in 1992 for Morocco to host the 1998 FIFA World Cup when he accepted a bribe from the bid committee in exchange for his vote.

The FIFA claim document said: “Warner and his co-conspirators lied to FIFA about the nature of the payment, disguising it as support for the benefit of the “African Diaspora” in the Caribbean region, when in reality it was a bribe. They disguised and funneled the bribe money through the financial accounts of FIFA, member associations, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup local organizing committee.”

The defendants are responsible for “harming FIFA’s brand and bringing FIFA and the game itself into disrepute”.

FIFA said it was entitled to restitution of “unfairly obtained money from FIFA in the form of salaries, bonuses, benefits, and other compensation”.

FIFA’s initial estimates for the loss amounts since 2004 are at least $28 million.

Its claims for the following defendants:

Chuck Blazer (pleaded guilty): $5,374,148
Jack Warner: $4,462,263
Ricardo Teixeira: $3,514,025
Jeffrey Webb (pleaded guilty): $2,016,205
Luis Bedoya (pleaded guilty): $517,843
Marco Polo Del Nero: $1,673,171
Eugenio Figueredo: $1,011,018
Alfredo Hawit: $230,479
Nicolás Leoz: $3,254,886
Eduardo Li: $10,750
Juan Ángel Napout: $339,693
Rafael Salguero: $5,134,980

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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