Monday 20 November 2017

FIFA's corruption scandal laid bare on another dramatic day

Sleeping acting FIFA President Issa Hayatou insists body is not corrupt (Getty Images)
Sleeping acting FIFA President Issa Hayatou insists body is not corrupt (Getty Images)

Martyn Ziegler

The full extent of FIFA's corruption scandal was laid bare by fresh indictments on Thursday after US justice authorities revealed huge sums destined for disaster relief and development projects were embezzled by senior officials.

The new indictments followed the dawn arrests of two FIFA vice-presidents, Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, in Zurich and fresh corruption charges against a total of 16 officials for sums totalling 200 million US dollars mostly relating to TV and marketing deals in north, south and central America and the Caribbean.

US attorney general Loretta Lynch announced the new indictments including those against three former executive committee members - Ricardo Teixeira, the disgraced Brazilian who quit FIFA's executive committee in 2012 after it was revealed he had received millions of pounds in bribes from FIFA's former marketing company ISL, his successor Marco Polo Del Nero, and Guatemala's Rafael Salguero. It brings to 10 the number of current or former ExCo members facing charges.

The most shocking detail in the new indictment is the new revelation involving officials who were indicted following arrests last May. It discloses that disgraced former Caribbean football chief Jack Warner and his successor Jeffrey Webb - who has pleaded guilty to seven charges - had no compunction about embezzling development and relief money destined for the very poorest countries in their confederation.

The indictment states: "The conspirators' corruption of the enterprise extended beyond the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks. FIFA's provision of money - which totalled in the hundreds of millions of dollars - to its member associations in connection with the Goal Program, Financial Assistance Program (FAP), and other programs created opportunities for officials to embezzle or otherwise fraudulently appropriate funding intended to benefit FIFA's member associations and their constituent organisations, including youth leagues.

"Certain of the defendants and their co-conspirators, including the defendant Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb, took advantage of these opportunities and embezzled or otherwise personally appropriated funds provided by FIFA, including funds intended for natural disaster relief."

It is the first official confirmation of allegations that Warner diverted 750,000 US dollars in emergency funds donated by FIFA and the Korean Football Association intended for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. He is currently fighting extradition from Trinidad to the USA.

Webb, a banker from the Cayman Islands, has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Webb agreed to forfeit more than 6.7million US dollars.

Lynch told a news conference in Washington DC: "The betrayal of trust is truly outrageous." And she warned those officials still to be arrested: "You will not wait us out and you will not escape our focus."

The announcement of the indictments followed a raid on the luxury Baur Au Lac hotel in Zurich used by FIFA officials, which was swooped upon for the second time this year. It takes to 27 the number of defendants charged by the US with a further 24 unnamed "co-conspirators" including former FIFA ExCo members.

A statement from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said Napout and Hawitt are opposing their extradition to the USA.

The statement added: ''According to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars.'They are alleged to have taken the money in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches.''

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At a news conference in Zurich, acting FIFA president The new indictments followed the dawn arrests of two FIFA vice-presidents, Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, in Zurich and fresh corruption charges against a total of 16 officials for sums totalling 200 million US dollars mostly relating to TV and marketing deals in north, south and central America and the Caribbean.

US attorney general Loretta Lynch announced the new indictments including those against three former executive committee members - Ricardo Teixeira, the disgraced Brazilian who quit FIFA's executive committee in 2012 after it was revealed he had received millions of pounds in bribes from FIFA's former marketing company ISL, his successor Marco Polo Del Nero, and Guatemala's Rafael Salguero. It brings to 10 the number of current or former ExCo members facing charges.

The most shocking detail in the new indictment is the new revelation involving officials who were indicted following arrests last May. It discloses that disgraced former Caribbean football chief Jack Warner and his successor Jeffrey Webb - who has pleaded guilty to seven charges - had no compunction about embezzling development and relief money destined for the very poorest countries in their confederation.

The indictment states: "The conspirators' corruption of the enterprise extended beyond the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks. FIFA's provision of money - which totalled in the hundreds of millions of dollars - to its member associations in connection with the Goal Program, Financial Assistance Program (FAP), and other programs created opportunities for officials to embezzle or otherwise fraudulently appropriate funding intended to benefit FIFA's member associations and their constituent organisations, including youth leagues.

"Certain of the defendants and their co-conspirators, including the defendant Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb, took advantage of these opportunities and embezzled or otherwise personally appropriated funds provided by FIFA, including funds intended for natural disaster relief."

It is the first official confirmation of allegations that Warner diverted 750,000 US dollars in emergency funds donated by FIFA and the Korean Football Association intended for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. He is currently fighting extradition from Trinidad to the USA.

Webb, a banker from the Cayman Islands, has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Webb agreed to forfeit more than 6.7million US dollars.

Lynch told a news conference in Washington DC: "The betrayal of trust is truly outrageous." And she warned those officials still to be arrested: "You will not wait us out and you will not escape our focus."

The announcement of the indictments followed a raid on the luxury Baur Au Lac hotel in Zurich used by FIFA officials, which was swooped upon for the second time this year. It takes to 27 the number of defendants charged by the US with a further 24 unnamed "co-conspirators" including former FIFA ExCo members.

A statement from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said Napout and Hawitt are opposing their extradition to the USA.

The statement added: ''According to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars. They are alleged to have taken the money in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches.''

At a news conference in Zurich, acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou insisted that neither he nor the organisation is corrupt.

 Hayatou said: ''FIFA is not corrupt. We have individuals that have shown negative behaviour. Do not generalise the situation. There are lots of people in FIFA for more than 20 or 30 years that have not been accused of anything.''

In 2011 Hayatou was named by a Parliamentary select committee of having been accused by a whistleblower of accepting a 1.5million US dollar bribe from Qatar during the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup - both he and Qatar denied the charge, and the whistleblower later retracted the claim.

Hayatou was also reprimanded in 2011 by the International Olympic Committee after his name appeared on a list of payments made by ISL.

Asked if he was personally corrupt, he said: ''I would not be here if I was corrupt my dear friend. Can Parliament prove I have 1.5million dollars? I have not received one single euro or dollar to vote for anyone as host of the World Cup.''

Hayatou, who had a kidney transplant three weeks ago, appeared to fall asleep during the press conference but insisted he was well enough to act as president.

He said: ''I have small problems of health but this does not stop me being here before you.''

The FIFA corruption scandal first broke in May when seven officials, including Webb, were arrested in Zurich. A source with knowledge of the investigation told Press Association Sport the latest arrests followed evidence provided by Webb to US justice authorities.

Napout and Hawit's arrests meant they were unable to take part in the second day of a FIFA executive committee meeting on Thursday when a raft of reform measures were passed. Brazil's FIFA ExCo member Fernando Sarney told Press Association Sport: ''It was like someone had died, that was the atmosphere inside. Everybody was surprised, the feeling was like it's happening again, that it's something we think is personal. It was supposed to be a positive day today with the reforms and a lot changes, compliance, transparency.''

The charges against Teixeira, the former son-in-law of former FIFA president Joao Havelange, are no surprise after he was named by a Swiss court as having taken £27million in bribes from ISL.

Sepp Blatter announced on June 2 he would step down as president after FIFA was forced to admit that it had paid 10million US dollars destined for the South Africa World Cup to an account controlled by Warner.

Since then, Blatter has been provisionally suspended, pending an ethics committee hearing into a £1.3million payment made to UEFA president Michel Platini, with the pair facing possible lifetime bans.

FIFA's acting secretary general Markus Kattner confirmed the reforms, to be put to FIFA's Congress in February, would see the salaries of the president and senior officials made public. He outlined a two-year timetable for implementing the changes with FIFA recognised as a ''modern, trusted professional organisation'' by December 2018 after a successful World Cup in Russia.

The 26-strong FIFA executive committee will be replaced by a FIFA Council with at least six of the 36 places filled by women, one from each confederation. insisted that neither he nor the organisation is corrupt.

Hayatou said: ''FIFA is not corrupt. We have individuals that have shown negative behaviour. Do not generalise the situation. There are lots of people in FIFA for more than 20 or 30 years that have not been accused of anything.''

In 2011 Hayatou was named by a Parliamentary select committee of having been accused by a whistleblower of accepting a 1.5million US dollar bribe from Qatar during the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup - both he and Qatar denied the charge, and the whistleblower later retracted the claim.

Hayatou was also reprimanded in 2011 by the International Olympic Committee after his name appeared on a list of payments made by ISL.

Asked if he was personally corrupt, he said: ''I would not be here if I was corrupt my dear friend. Can Parliament prove I have 1.5million dollars? I have not received one single euro or dollar to vote for anyone as host of the World Cup.''

Hayatou, who had a kidney transplant three weeks ago, appeared to fall asleep during the press conference but insisted he was well enough to act as president. He said: ''I have small problems of health but this does not stop me being here before you.''

The FIFA corruption scandal first broke in May when seven officials, including Webb, were arrested in Zurich. A source with knowledge of the investigation told Press Association Sport the latest arrests followed evidence provided by Webb to US justice authorities.

Napout and Hawit's arrests meant they were unable to take part in the second day of a FIFA executive committee meeting on Thursday when a raft of reform measures were passed. Brazil's FIFA ExCo member Fernando Sarney told Press Association Sport: ''It was like someone had died, that was the atmosphere inside. Everybody was surprised, the feeling was like it's happening again, that it's something we think is personal. It was supposed to be a positive day today with the reforms and a lot changes, compliance, transparency.''

The charges against Teixeira, the former son-in-law of former FIFA president Joao Havelange, are no surprise after he was named by a Swiss court as having taken £27million in bribes from ISL.

Sepp Blatter announced on June 2 he would step down as president after FIFA was forced to admit that it had paid 10million US dollars destined for the South Africa World Cup to an account controlled by Warner.

Since then, Blatter has been provisionally suspended, pending an ethics committee hearing into a £1.3million payment made to UEFA president Michel Platini, with the pair facing possible lifetime bans.

FIFA's acting secretary general Markus Kattner confirmed the reforms, to be put to FIFA's Congress in February, would see the salaries of the president and senior officials made public. He outlined a two-year timetable for implementing the changes with FIFA recognised as a ''modern, trusted professional organisation'' by December 2018 after a successful World Cup in Russia.

The 26-strong FIFA executive committee will be replaced by a FIFA Council with at least six of the 36 places filled by women, one from each confederation.

Press Association

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