Football rocked as agencies implicated in corruption charges

Executives from the Full Play, Torneos y Competencias and Traffic Sports agencies were accused today (Wednesday) of corruption in relation to the sale of marketing and media rights surrounding certain football matches and tournaments in the Americas.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) named Torneos controlling principal Alejandro Burzaco, Traffic Sports USA president Aaron Davidson, and Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, the controlling principals of Full Play, in the indictment, which featured a total of 14 individuals, including nine Fifa officials.

The deals under suspicion surround certain events under the jurisdictions of Conmebol, football’s governing body in Latin America, and Concacaf, the sport’s governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean. Police in several countries, including the US and Switzerland, made numerous arrests this morning. Many of the football executives were gathered in Zurich, Switzerland ahead of the annual congress of Fifa, the sport’s global governing body, later this week.

The defendants are charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies over a 24-year period.

The DOJ also “unsealed” the names of individuals who had already pleaded guilty to charges, including José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group. The DOJ said that Hawilla had pleaded guilty on December 12, 2014 to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He agreed to forfeit over $151m (€140m), $25m of which was paid at the time of his plea.

The DOJ added that the defendants Traffic Sports USA and Traffic Sports International pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy on May 14 this year.

Former Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer and brothers Daryll and Daryan Warner also pleaded guilty and their father, former Concacaf president Jack Warner, was named as one of the other defendants, alongside current Concacaf president and Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb, and Fifa vice-president Eugenio Figueredo.

The other defendants were named as Fifa executive committee member-elect Eduardo Li, Fifa development officer Julio Rocha, Conmebol executive committee member Rafael Esquivel, Fifa Olympic football tournament organising committee member José Maria Marin, former Fifa executive committee member Nicolás Leoz and Costas Takkas, current attaché to the Concacaf president. Charges have also been brought against José Margulies, the controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton, who allegedly acted as an intermediary.

“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who announced the charges. “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”

The DOJ said that “most of the schemes alleged in the indictment relate to the solicitation and receipt of bribes and kickbacks… in connection with the commercialisation of the media and marketing rights associated with various soccer matches and tournaments, including Fifa World Cup qualifiers in the Concacaf region, the Concacaf Gold Cup, the Concacaf Champions League, the jointly organised Conmebol/Concacaf Copa América Centenario, the Conmebol Copa América, the Conmebol Copa Libertadores and the Copa do Brasil, which is organized by the Brazilian national soccer federation (CBF). Other alleged schemes relate to the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sponsorship of CBF by a major US sportswear company, the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.”

The DOJ added that the charges in the indictment “are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”