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Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Back issues
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16 More Accused of Role|in FIFA Corruption

(CN) - The former president of Honduras and a Guatemalan federal judge were among 16 more people ensnared in the U.S. government's ongoing probe of FIFA officials accused of taking more than $200 million in bribes over two decades.

The government's 92-count superseding indictment was unsealed Thursday in Brooklyn Federal Court, charging the men with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering for an alleged 24-year scheme to enrich themselves "through the corruption of international soccer," according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The Justice Department also announced the guilty pleas of eight others connected to the Fédération Internationale de Futbol Association, soccer's governing body.

The newly-indicted defendants include regional officials for CONCACAF, the U.S.-based FIFA confederation, and officers of CONMEBOL, the confederation headquartered in South America.

Among them are Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout the respective current presidents of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, in addition to current FIFA vice presidents and executive committee members.

Hawit, 64, and Napout, 57, were arrested Thursday morning by Swiss authorities as they prepared to attend FIFA meetings in Zurich, and the United States is working to extradite them, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a news conference.

Honduras' former president, Rafael Callejas, 72, and Guatemalan judge Hector Trujillo, 62, have also been pulled into the scandal.

"Taken together, the 27 defendants in the superseding indictment are alleged to have engaged in a number of schemes all designed to solicit and receive well over $200 million in bribes and kickbacks to sell lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches, among other valuable rights and properties," a department press release states.

In total, 41 people and entities have been charged in the alleged scheme, the government says. Twelve have already been convicted, agreeing to forfeit more than $190 million collectively.

In addition to the 16 people indicted, eight others recently pleaded guilty, including two former FIFA executive committee members, according to the Justice Department.

The government says the misconduct has occurred since 1991.

"Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks," the press release states.

Lynch said at a news conference Thursday that the Justice Department "is committed to ending the rampant corruption" in international soccer.

"[Sports] are one of the primary ways we teach our children about character, about fair play and about teamwork. International tournaments promote understanding between nations, and embody an acknowledgement of our common humanity - something that is desperately important, particularly in these times of global challenge," Lynch said. "That's why this investigation does more than address corruption in a worldwide sports organization. It also reaffirms the ideals that have always guided our society - and, most importantly, our young people - toward the fair and just future they deserve."

Included in the latest dust-up in the soccer world are Marco Polo del Nero, 74, and Ricardo Teixeira, 69, the current and former presidents of the Brazilian soccer federation, and ex-members of FIFA's executive committee. Feds also came after Jose Luis Meiszner, 69, and Eduardo Deluca, 75, the current and former general secretaries of CONMEBOL.


Current or former presidents of nearly every futbol league in South America, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, are named in the indictment.

A search warrant was also requested to go through the offices of Media World, a Miami-based sports marketing company.

"You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus," Lynch said Thursday.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey also took swipes at the alleged bribers.

"For decades, these defendants used their power as the leaders of soccer federations throughout the world to create a web of corruption and greed that compromises the integrity of the beautiful game," he said.

Brooklyn prosecutor Robert Capers had harsh words for the accused, warning officials that the feds were coming after them to "make room for a new era of integrity and reform," and that "our work is not done."

Internal Revenue Service Chief Richard Weber called the scheme an example of "brazenness" that is "quite alarming."

"While it is one of the most complex worldwide financial investigations ever conducted, it is also an eye opener to everyone that such greed and corruption could be hiding in plain sight within the world's most popular sport," Weber said. "By conspiring to enrich themselves through bribery and kickback schemes relating to media and marketing rights, the defendants undermined the process of fair and open competition, corrupting the beautiful game for their own personal gain."

Thursday's announcement of indictments and guilty pleas is just the latest development in a growing saga. High-ranking FIFA officials were first indicted in May of this year, when Lynch said they "corrupted the world of soccer."

In June, currently suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced his resignation. Three more soccer officials were suspended in October.

The eight guilty pleas announced Thursday include both business owners and soccer leaders.

Zorana Danis, co-founder and owner of International Soccer Marketing Inc., a New Jersey-based sports marketing company, pleaded guilty in May to a two-count charge that she committed wire fraud and filed false tax returns. She agreed to forfeit $2 million and will be sentenced next April.

Last month, Fabio Tordin, the former CEO of Traffic Sports USA Inc. and now an executive with Miami-based Media World LLC, pleaded guilty to a four-count charge for wire fraud and tax evasion. He agreed to forfeit more than $600,000. He will be sentenced in June.

On Nov. 12, Luis Bedoya, 56, a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, a CONMEBOL vice president and the former president of the Federación Colombiana de Fútbol, the Colombian soccer federation, pleaded guilty to two counts of racketeering and wire fraud. He agreed to forfeit all funds in his Swiss bank account. He faces sentencing in June.

Alejandro Burzaco, 51, the former general manager and chairman of the board of Torneos y Competencias S.A., an Argentinean sports marketing company, copped to racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering on Nov. 16. He agreed to forfeit more than $21.6 million, and faces sentencing June.

On Nov. 17, Roger Huguet, 52, the CEO of Media World and its parent company, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of money laundering conspiracy. He agreed to fork over $600,000.

Jeffrey Webb, a former FIFA vice president and Executive Committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union Executive Committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association president, pleaded guilty to racketeering, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering on Nov. 23. He'll turn over more than $6.7 million. He faces sentencing next June.

Also on Nov. 23, Sergio Jadue, 36, a vice president of CONMEBOL and, until last month, the president of the Asociación Nacional de Fútbol Profesional de Chile, the Chilean soccer federation, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to two counts of racketeering and wire fraud. He agreed to turn over all the money in his American bank account. He will be sentenced in June.

José Margulies, 76, head of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd, which served as the go-between to swing deals between sports marketing executives and soccer officials, pleaded guilty on Nov. 25 to racketeering, wire fraud conspiracy and two counts of money laundering conspiracy. He's going to turn over $9.2 million, and will be sentenced in June.

The parties face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. They all also face mandatory restitution, forfeiture and a fine.

Tordin and Danis face an extra five and three years in prison, respectively, for the tax charges.

These are all of the newly indicted defendants in the widening scandal:

Honduras' former president, Rafael Callejas, 72.

Hector Trujillo, 62, a Guatemalan judge and the general secretary of that country's soccer federation.

FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit.

Panama's soccer president and member of FIFA's disciplinary committee, Ariel Alvarado, 56.

Guatemalan soccer federal president and member of FIFA's Committee for Fair Play and Social Responsibility, Brayan Jimenez, 61.

Rafael Salguero, 70, former FIFA executive committee member and Guatemalan soccer federal president.

Reynaldo Vasquez, 59, former president of El Salvador's soccer federation.

FIFA Vice President Juan Angel Napout, 57.

Former Peruvian soccer federation president Manuel Burga, 58.

CONMEBOL's treasurer and former president of the Bolivian soccer federation Carlos Chavez, 57.

The president of Ecuador's soccer federation Luis Chiriboga, 69.

The president of Brazil's soccer federation, Marco Polo del Nero, 74.

CONMEBOL's general secretaries Eduardo Deluca and Jose Luis Meiszner, 69.

FIFA auditor and former CONMEBOL treasurer Romer Osuna, 72.

The former president of Brazil's soccer federation and current FIFA Committee member Ricardo Teixeira, 68.

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