Home Global Game CONCACAF FIFA says it is cooperating with U.S. investigators, is an “injured party”

FIFA says it is cooperating with U.S. investigators, is an “injured party”

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It’s CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, it’s not us. We are an “injured party” and will cooperate with American investigators.

That’s the tone of the response from FIFA headquarters in the wake of news that six high-ranking soccer officials have been arrested in Switzerland — with plans to deport them to the United States to face fraud and racketeering charges.

In a release issued by FIFA, the headline states that the world football organization an “injured party.” Basically, FIFA is telling the world that it’s a victim.

Here is the text of the release:

FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football. We understand that today’s actions by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice on behalf of the US authorities and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (initiated by FIFA through the submission of the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process) relate to different matters.

Firstly, the arrest of six individuals this morning in Zurich concerns investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of the State of New York. The Swiss authorities, acting on behalf of their US counterparts, arrested the individuals for activities carried out in relation with CONCACAF and CONMEBOL business.

The second instance follows FIFA’s initiative of presenting the file on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General in November 2014. The authorities are taking the opportunity of the FIFA Congress to interview those FIFA Executive Committee members who are not Swiss residents who voted back in 2010 and are still in office.

Today, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General announced that it has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown in relation to the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup™ bidding process. FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard. As noted by the Swiss authorities, this collection of evidence is being carried out on a cooperative basis.

We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken.

From the U.S. Department of Justice, here’s the list of those charged:

As set forth in the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators fall generally into three categories: soccer officials acting in a fiduciary capacity within FIFA and one or more of its constituent organizations; sports media and marketing company executives; and businessmen, bankers and other trusted intermediaries who laundered illicit payments.

Nine of the defendants were FIFA officials by operation of the FIFA statutes, as well as officials of one or more other bodies:

Jeffrey Webb: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.

Eduardo Li: Current FIFA executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.

Julio Rocha: Current FIFA development officer.  Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president

Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president.  Former CIFA general secretary.

Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.

Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member.  Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.

Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president

Jose Maria Marin: Current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments.  Former CBF president.

Nicolas Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.

Four of the defendants were sports marketing executives:

Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.

Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc. (Traffic USA).

Hugo and Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.

And one of the defendants was in the broadcasting business but allegedly served as an intermediary to facilitate illicit payments between sports marketing executives and soccer officials:

Jose Margulies: Controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd.

The Department of Justice also unsealed the details regarding previous guilty pleas it had exacted, including Traffic, the company which markets the North American Soccer League and still has a stake in the Carolina RailHawks. As well, Davidson, listed above, is the chairman of the NASL board.

On July 15, 2013, the defendant Daryll Warner, son of defendant Jack Warner and a former FIFA development officer, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with wire fraud and the structuring of financial transactions. 

On Oct. 25, 2013, the defendant Daryan Warner waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions.  Daryan Warner forfeited over $1.1 million around the time of his plea and has agreed to pay a second forfeiture money judgment at the time of sentencing.

On Nov. 25, 2013, the defendant Charles Blazer, the former CONCACAF general secretary and a former FIFA executive committee member, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a 10-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion and failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).  Blazer forfeited over $1.9 million at the time of his plea and has agreed to pay a second amount to be determined at the time of sentencing. 

On Dec. 12, 2014, the defendant José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, the Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a four-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.  Hawilla also agreed to forfeit over $151 million, $25 million of which was paid at the time of his plea.

On May 14, 2015, the defendants Traffic Sports USA Inc. and Traffic Sports International Inc. pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy.

All money forfeited by the defendants is being held in reserve to ensure its availability to satisfy any order of restitution entered at sentencing for the benefit of any individuals or entities that qualify as victims of the defendants’ crimes under federal law.

According to the prosecutors, because CONCACAF conducted business in Miami and New York City — and there were American financial institutions used, that the United States does indeed have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Americans and have these people extradited from Switzerland.

“The world is not insular to any country anymore,” were some of the final words uttered in the stream of the press conference, from U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie. He said it took years to put this case together, partnered with the American Internal Revenue Service.

“This was the beginning, not the end.”

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One Comment

  1. Flips

    May 27, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Well, if FIFA wants to scapegoat CONCACAF, that could be bad news for Canada. But to claim that they had no knowledge of how two of their bigger federations were running their business is hard to believe.

    Reply

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