The new lords of fraud: FIFA

Beginning in 1991, two generations of soccer officials, including the then-presidents of two regional soccer confederations under FIFA – the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, known as CONCACAF, which includes the United States, and the South American Football Confederation, or CONMEBOL, which represents organized soccer in South America – used their positions of trust within their respective organizations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the commercial rights to their soccer tournaments.  They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.

“For instance, in 2016, the United States is scheduled to host the centennial edition of the Copa America – the first time that tournament will be held in cities outside South America.  Our investigation revealed that what should be an expression of international sportsmanship was used as a vehicle in a broader scheme to line executives’ pockets with bribes totaling $110 million – nearly a third of the legitimate costs of the rights to the tournaments involved.

The criminal activity we have identified did not solely involve sports marketing.  Around 2004, bidding began for the opportunity to host the 2010 World Cup, which was ultimately awarded to South Africa – the first time the tournament would be held on the African continent.  But even for this historic event, FIFA executives and others corrupted the process by using bribes to influence the hosting decision.  The indictment also alleges that corruption and bribery extended to the 2011 FIFA presidential election, and to agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company.

In short, these individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games; where the games would be held; and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide.  While at least one FIFA executive served as CONCACAF president without pay, there was little altruism involved, as he alone is alleged to have taken more than $10 million in bribes over a 19-year period and amassed a personal fortune from his ill-gotten gains.  In many instances, defendants and their co-conspirators planned aspects of their scheme during meetings held here in the United States; they used the banking and wire facilities of the United States to distribute bribe payments; and they planned to profit from their scheme in large part through promotional efforts directed at the growing U.S. market for soccer.”

US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch


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