U.S. Prosecutors Say Qatar and Russia Bribed FIFA Officials to Win World Cup Bids

Written by on April 6, 2020

After years of investigations and indictments, america Division of Justice on Monday mentioned for the primary time that representatives working for Russia and Qatar had bribed FIFA officers to safe internet hosting rights for the World Cup in males’s soccer.

Prosecutors made the accusations in an indictment charging three media executives and a sports activities advertising firm with a variety of crimes, together with wire fraud and cash laundering, in reference to bribes to safe tv and advertising rights for worldwide soccer tournaments.

The accusations had been the newest in a yearslong corruption case that has already produced convictions of quite a few soccer officers and executives in addition to depositions from former leaders of FIFA, world soccer’s governing physique. By no means earlier than, although, have prosecutors so clearly described the scheme that helped ship the votes that gave Russia and Qatar internet hosting rights for one of many world’s largest sporting occasions.

The U.S. prosecutors on Monday explicitly revealed particulars about cash paid to 5 members of FIFA’s high board forward of the 2010 vote to decide on Russia and Qatar as hosts. Russia defeated England and joint bids from Holland-Belgium and Spain-Portugal to host the 2018 males’s event. Qatar, a tiny desert state that has spent billions of dollars to arrange for the 2022 World Cup, defeated america in a runoff by a gaggle of voters that had already been trimmed as a result of two members had been secretly filmed agreeing to promote their votes.

Three South American officers, in keeping with the indictment, obtained funds to vote for Qatar.

One of many officers, Julio Grondona of Argentina, died in 2014. One other, Nicolás Leoz, died in Paraguay final yr whereas beneath home arrest and combating extradition to america. The third man, Ricardo Teixeira, the previous chief of soccer in Brazil, stays in that nation, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with america.

Leoz and Teixeira had been indicted in 2015 on prices associated to bribery schemes to promote profitable soccer rights to sports activities broadcasters.

The U.S. prosecutors additionally acknowledged in Monday’s indictment that the previous soccer official Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, who has been combating extradition to the U.S. since 2015, obtained $5 million by a string of shell corporations to vote for Russia. A few of the cash, the indictment mentioned, got here “from corporations primarily based in america that carried out work on behalf of the 2018 Russia World Cup bid.”

Rafael Salguero, a Guatemalan soccer official who pleaded guilty in 2016 to cash laundering and fraud prices, obtained $1 million to offer his vote to Russia, the indictment mentioned.

Not one of the former soccer officers had been instantly obtainable for remark. Officers at Russia’s soccer federation and FIFA didn’t reply to an electronic mail despatched after enterprise hours to request remark.

Qatar has lengthy denied allegations of appearing improperly regardless of going through a slew of accusations because it began bidding for soccer’s largest prize.

A FIFA doc alluded to the bribery scheme final yr. The names of Grondona, Leoz and Teixeira and references to funds they obtained had been included in an ethics doc justifying a lifetime suspension of Teixeira from FIFA.

The allegations in opposition to the South Individuals mirror these made by Alejandro Burzaco, a former Argentine tv government who turned state’s witness after being named as a central determine within the soccer corruption case. He mentioned on the New York trial of three different officers in 2017 that Leoz, Grondona and Teixeira had been paid to vote for Qatar.

Greater than half the individuals concerned within the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, together with the previous FIFA president Sepp Blatter, have been accused of wrongdoing, although not essentially criminally charged.

The selection of Qatar — a rustic with such sizzling summers that 5 years after the vote FIFA was pressured to move the start of the 2022 World Cup to November — obtained a lot of the consideration after the votes. However Russia, too, has confronted allegations of improper bidding habits.

Russian officers informed a FIFA panel that investigated its bid that they might not flip over computer systems used through the course of to a FIFA investigator as a result of they’d all been destroyed.

Final Might, nearly a yr after Russia staged the World Cup, Gianni Infantino, who got here out of relative obscurity to safe the FIFA presidency after the corruption scandal took down nearly all the group’s senior management, obtained the Order of Friendship medal from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Two of the sports activities media executives who had been charged in Monday’s indictments, Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, previously labored for worldwide subsidiaries of 21st Century Fox. This was the primary time the federal authorities had formally accused Fox, which received the rights to televise the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, or any of its executives of wrongdoing.

Throughout the 2017 trial, Burzaco accused Fox of bribing officers, an accusation that the corporate denied on the time.

Lopez, 49, was the president and chief government of Fox Worldwide Channels, and Martinez, 51, was the president of Fox Networks Group Latin America. In accordance with the prosecutors, the pair participated in a scheme that paid thousands and thousands of {dollars} in bribes to officers of South America’s continental soccer federation, so as to direct how the officers awarded broadcast rights for the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier membership soccer competitors.

They’re additionally accused of utilizing inside info to assist Fox win the English-language rights in america to televise the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Lopez and Martinez “relied on loyalty secured by the fee of bribes,” in keeping with the indictment. Amongst different issues, the prosecutors mentioned, the bribes helped Fox acquire confidential info “relating to bidding for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in america.”

By means of their attorneys, Lopez and Martinez denied the costs and accused the U.S. authorities of pushing ahead a skinny case.

“The indictment incorporates nothing greater than single paragraph about Mr. Lopez that alleges nothing remotely improper,” Matthew Umhofer, a lawyer for Lopez, mentioned in assertion. Steven McCool, a lawyer for Martinez, known as the costs “nothing greater than stale fiction.”

Neither the Fox Company nor Disney — which acquired most of Fox’s international assets in 2019 — instantly responded to a request for remark.

In 2011, it was announced that Fox had agreed to pay greater than $400 million for the English-language rights in america to the boys’s 2018 and 2022 World Cups, in addition to to the ladies’s 2015 and 2019 World Cups. The win was a shock, as ABC and ESPN had broadcast the boys’s World Cup since 1994.

FIFA later awarded Fox the rights to broadcast the 2026 World Cup with out holding an open bidding course of, after Fox had challenged the federation’s choice to maneuver the 2022 event to late fall from its conventional summer time window.

Lopez left Fox in 2016 to start out the podcast firm Wondery; Martinez left in 2019.

Additionally charged Monday was Gerard Romy, a former government of a Spanish media conglomerate, and Full Play, a Uruguay-based sports activities advertising firm. Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis, the house owners of Full Play, had been charged individually in 2015 as a part of the primary FIFA indictments within the case.

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