Spurious sponsorship deals are linked to Russia and Qatar
Published 30/05/2015 | 02:30
Sponsorship deals linked to the Russia and Qatar World Cup tournaments are being investigated by the FBI, it has been revealed.
An indictment released by the US authorities describes how a businessman "negotiate[d] a contract to acquire the media and marketing rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifier matches" and agreed a $3m (€2.75m) bribe in exchange for the deal. Costas Takkas, a British citizen who has been accused of using his global network of bank accounts to funnel bribes for another football official, was involved in negotiating the payments.
The disclosure is likely to increase pressure on Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, to stand down, as it illustrates the widespread corruption during his tenure.
Officers from the City of London are in contact with the FBI regarding the inquiry into World Cup corruption and have been "assisting" since the "early stages" of the investigation, sources confirmed.
The revelation about bribes to secure contracts is the first evidence that business deals surrounding the two tournaments could be corrupt.
Earlier this week, the Swiss authorities announced that they had opened a criminal inquiry into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup decisions.
Mr Blatter, and other officials who awarded Russia and Qatar the tournaments, could be interviewed by authorities.
Fourteen football officials and executives have been arrested this week as part of an FBI investigation into corruption.
During a press conference, James Comey, the director of the FBI, said that "undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes became a way of doing business at Fifa".
The 164-page indictment sets out the case against the individuals who have been arrested.
The document describes how "co-conspirator 4 participated, on behalf of Traffic USA [a sports marketing company], in the negotiation of a contract to acquire the media and marketing rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifier matches from the CFU [Caribbean Football Union] member associations".
During a meeting in Hungary, Mr Takkas, said that his colleague, Jeffrey Webb - who has also been arrested by police "wanted a $3m bribe in exchange for [the] contract to be awarded to Traffic USA".
The bribe was agreed, according to US authorities.
The indictment continues: "On or about August 28, 2012, the parties entered into a $23m (€21m) contract for the exclusive worldwide commercial rights for CFU's 2018 and 2022 World Cup qualifier matches".
Meanwhile, the disgraced former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner has been seen dancing at a political rally just hours after leaving prison in an ambulance on medical grounds.
Jack Warner was arrested on corruption charges this week as part of a €90m fraud investigation and spent a night in the state prison of Port of Spain in his native Trinidad and Tobago. He was granted bail on Thursday having complained of exhaustion, but that evening he was attended a political rally organised by his Independent Liberal Party in Chagaunas.
Mr Warner (72), who is trying to unseat Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessa, was photographed in a green shirt and baseball cap, wearing a decorative wreath around his neck as he danced to live music. At the rally he told supporters: "It's times like now, you know who your friends are."
Asked about the charges against him, for which he faces up to 20 years in prison in the United States if found guilty, Mr Warner, who denies any wrongdoing, said: "If I have been thieving Fifa money for 30 years, who gave me the money?"
Mr Warner threatened to drag Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, into the FBI's investigation after accusing him of helping fund his alleged corruption. When someone at the rally yelled "Blatter!", Mr Warner said: "And why is it he ain't charged?"
Mr Warner was arrested on Wednesday, hours after US prosecutors claimed he accepted bribes during the campaigns to host the 1998 and 2010 World Cups, won by France and South Africa respectively.
He faces 12 charges, including conspiracy to defraud and engage in racketeering.
The Trinidadian's name was on a list of nine current or former Fifa officials and five business executives who "abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks", according to Loretta Lynch, the US attorney general.
After initially protesting his innocence on Facebook, Mr Warner later surrendered to authorities in Trinidad and Tobago and appeared in a Port of Spain court before a judge who set his bail at $394,000. (© The Daily Telegraph)