First Banker Falls in FIFA Corruption Scandal

BROOKLYN (CN) — As the FIFA corruption case hits the financial sector, an Argentinian banker pleaded guilty Thursday to helping launder millions of dollars in bribes to his native country’s top soccer official and others.

Jorge Luis Arzuaga, 56, admitted to participating in a five-year bribery scheme today in the Eastern District of New York, making him the first banker among the 20-plus officials currently convicted in the scandal plaguing FIFA, short for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

Between 2010 and 2015, Arzuaga worked for two Swiss banks, where he managed accounts controlled by Alejandro Burzaco, a principal for Torneos y Competencias S.A., an Argentinian sports media and marketing business.

Prosecutors say that both men used these accounts to steer $25 million to the late president of the Asociación del Futbol Argentina, the nation’s soccer federation.

That president, who died in 2014, is indentified in court papers only as Soccer Official #1, and Arzuaga arranged for those funds to be distributed to his heirs after his death.

Bloomberg identified Arzuaga’s former Swiss bank employers as Credit Suisse Group AG and Julius Baer.

Burzaco copped to racketeering conspiracy and other charges on Nov. 16, 2015, when he acknowledged that he played a role in bribing soccer officials.

Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde called today’s plea an “important step” in the fight against money laundering.

“By facilitating the flow of bribe money through the Swiss and American banking systems, the defendant provided a critical service to those involved in corruption in international soccer,” Rohde said in a statement.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney vowed more action toward exposing “how wide-ranging and systemic corruption once was in one of the world’s most popular sports.”

“Our work is nowhere near finished, and we will continue to pursue each and every corrupt member of this scheme until each is brought to justice,” Sweeney said.

Under the terms of his plea, Arzuaga agreed to forfeit more than $1 million that he received in bonus payments from Burzaco for moving bribe money.

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